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Ecuador, Hollywood and Trial Lawyers vs. Chevron Equals Liberal Hypocrisy

5 years ago
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It was nice to see a slice of the commentariat point out the gaudy display of hypocrisy coming from the left in Copenhagen, where the limos and private planes of the emissaries of climate change emitted their requisite greenhouse gases so everyone could talk about how to reduce emissions. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. And, global warming or not, when it comes to liberals' double standard, this metaphorical iceberg is hardly shrinking.

Thousands of miles away, on a different continent, the tangible results of such hypocrisy are manifested by a handful of environmental and "human rights groups." These self-proclaimed activists, along with their Democratic accomplices in Congress, have teamed up with corrupt left-wing Ecuadorian President Raphael Correa in a massive civil lawsuit against Chevron. If all goes according to plan, they will divide the $27 billion they extract from the company with American trial lawyers.

In 1993, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of some 30,000 Ecuadorians against Texaco over ecological issues relating to the oil-rich Lago Agrio field. Texaco, which paid Ecuador $24 billion in taxes during that time, no longer exists. Chevron purchased the company in 2000, thus inheriting the longstanding lawsuit.

We may soon reach a dénouement. This past September, Chevron requested the U.N.'s Commission on International Trade Law to intervene. It is unclear who will come out on top of the arbitration, but that $27 billion is at stake -- not to mention the precedent this case would set. Like many lawsuits, there is also a public relations aspect involved. And the leftist American groups and individuals who have taken up the cause, such as the Amazon Defense Coalition, actress Daryl Hannah, Trudie Styler (Sting's wife), Kerry Kennedy (daughter of RFK), along with leftist Democrats such as House members Linda Sanchez and Jim McGovern, have cast themselves as advocates of human rights. Their concern for the people of Lago Agria is noble, but they have become pawns in the hands of a dictator.

They either don't know it or don't care, but the activists supporting this lawsuit are also supporting the interests of one of Latin America's most anti-democratic leaders, a man whose own anti-human rights record continues to flourish, putting him in the company of one of his best pals, the infamous Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez.

Correa, although he's much less well-known than Chavez -- is pursuing other hobbies such as cracking down on the press, rewriting his nation's constitution in order to increase his own power, and taking political money from FARC terrorists and drug traffickers.

Correa also seized the assets of U.S. owned Occidental Petroleum in 2006, and evicted the United States from an Ecuadorian air base. Despite his sleazy reputation, U.S.-based trial lawyers and left-wing human rights activists partnered with Correa and his government a couple years ago to engage what they call a "Toxic Tour," essentially a publicity stunt intended to target and embarrass an American company while ignoring the actions of the state-owned oil company, PetroEcuador, which has been responsible for over 1,100 oil spills since that time.

The entire lawsuit, in fact, may be the kind of retroactive application of the law that American trial lawyers wouldn't even attempt in the United States. As Forbes recently noted, "the lawsuit attempts to apply the 1999 Environmental Management Act retroactively, issued one year after Texaco was granted a clean bill of health attesting that its remediation measures were successful."

The fact that Chevron was given a clean bill of health in 1998 (after having paid $40 million in cleanup costs) and hasn't operated in the nation for over a decade has gotten little attention.

Meanwhile, a long list of human rights abuses on the part of Correa are simply overlooked or do not seem bothersome to these left-wingers posing as champions of the poor and working class. Once again, Hollywood liberals and "human rights" organizations have allowed their utopian view of the world to cloud reality. Their actions not only demonstrate their naiveté, but also their penchant for hypocrisy. As is often the case, their actions have unintended consequences. Rather than helping poor Ecuadorians, they are helping enslave them.

While American corporations are not always angels, there seems to be a pattern of liberals cozying up to leftist dictators -- and lining the pockets of trial lawyers, who somehow view these villains as more palatable than the corporations who employ millions of Americans.

Just as is the case in Copenhagen, the Ecuador story isn't mainly about protecting the environment but about a redistribution of wealth. In the case of Copenhagen, the redistribution would be from rich nations to developing ones. In the case of Ecuador, a left-wing dictator and his greedy trial-lawyer cronies in the U.S. are hoping to shakedown an "evil" U.S. corporation.
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