The case of Steven Donziger and Chevron: How those who fight corporate tyranny are crushed

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By Chris Hedges


The persecution of the attorney Steven Donziger is a grim illustration of what happens when we confront the real centers of power, masked and unacknowledged by the divisive cant from the Trump White House or the sentimental drivel of the Democratic Party. Those, like Donziger, who name and fight the corporate control of our society on behalf of the vulnerable see the judiciary, the press and the institutions of government unite to crucify them.

"It's been a long battle, 27 years," Donziger said when I reached him by phone in his apartment in Manhattan.


Donziger, who has been fighting polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador, has been under house arrest in Manhattan for a year. He will go to trial in federal court in New York on Sept. 9 on contempt of court charges, which could see him jailed for six months. Ever since he won a multibillion-dollar judgment in 2011 against the oil giant Chevron, the multinational has come after him personally through litigation that threatens to destroy him economically, professionally and personally.


"Our L-T [long-term] strategy is to demonize Donziger," Chevron wrote in an internal memo in 2009, as reviewed by Courthouse News.


"It started when Texaco went into Ecuador in the Amazon in the 1960s and cut a sweetheart deal with the military government then ruling Ecuador," Donziger told me. "Over the next 25 years, Texaco was the exclusive operator of a very large area of the Amazon that had several oil fields within this area, 1,500 square miles. They drilled hundreds of wells. They created thousands of open-air, unlined toxic waste pits where they dumped the heavy metals and toxins that came up from the ground when they drilled. They ran pipes from the pits into rivers and streams that local people relied on for their drinking water, their fishing and their sustenance. They poisoned this pristine ecosystem, in which lived five indigenous peoples, as well as a lot of other non-indigenous rural communities. There was a mass industrial poisoning."


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