AFTA Could Undermine Lawsuit Against Chevron

The Andean Free Trade Agreement could undermine a class action lawsuit filed by 30,000 Ecuadorians against Chevron for oil contamination in the Amazon that led to massive environmental destruction and widespread health problems.

Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Barack Obama (D-Ill) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Portman on Feb. 2 urging him to ignore Chevron’s campaign to exclude Ecuador from AFTA trade negotiations until the Ecuadorian government shuts down the lawsuit.

The senators write: "We are writing to seek your assurances that the U.S. Trade Representative will not allow negotiations over the Andean Free Trade Agreement to interfere with a case involving Chevron that is under consideration by the Ecuadorian judiciary, particularly one involving environmental, health and human rights issues that have regional importance. While we are not prejudging the outcome of the case, we do believe the 30,000 indigenous residents of Ecuador deserve their day in court."

Chevron has been rabidly lobbying Congress on the issue.

"This campaign is morally reprehensible because it violates an express promise Chevron made to the U.S. court as a condition of getting the case sent to Ecuador," said Luis Yanza, a representative of the affected communities. "Our people are dying while Chevron spends millions on lobbyists to undermine the rule of law."