Earlier this year we witnessed the victory of Chevron over the New York shakedown artists who spent several years and tens of millions of dollars trying to pick their pockets over a fraudulent case in Ecuador. (Full coverage) For many of us, that would have been enough, particularly given how often big companies pay out large checks to nuisance suits just to avoid the media blitz and the associated hassles. But apparently Chevron has decided that enough is enough and will seek to strike at the source of the corruption. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Chevron is going after Ecuador themselves, and it may actually result in improving the chances for true democracy in the corrupt system.
New York federal judge Lewis Kaplan ruled last week that Chevron may “conduct discovery” regarding a $6.4 million contract between the government of Ecuador and MCSquared, a Brooklyn, N.Y., public-relations firm. Score another victory for the oil company over plaintiffs seeking to blame it for environmental damage in the Ecuadorean jungle.
MCSquared “likely possesses evidence relating to the coordination between the Republic of Ecuador and the plaintiffs behind the fraudulent lawsuit,” Chevron said in a statement on Nov. 24.
The company is attempting to scrutinize Ecuador’s role in what increasingly looks like a corporate shakedown. But Chevron isn’t the only potential beneficiary of what might come to light. Ecuadoreans who live powerlessly under a repressive, secretive regime that bills itself as democratic will also be better informed.
The WSJ has dug into the details of how things actually operate in the “democracy” of Ecuador and it’s not a pretty sight. Opposition party members of the national assembly currently have zero access to the details of any public contracts under the rule of President Rafael Correa. Even if they objected to the corrupt scheme which has collapsed, they have no ability to bring up the details. This has been damaging to the government and to the people as well.
When opposition congressman Andrés Páez asked the government to provide the details of what MCSquared did to earn the $6.4 million, the government launched a smear campaign against him and accused him of being a CIA agent.
The allies of Steven Donziger are still in charge down there, but Chevron has been given the green light to at least begin proceedings to shine some light on the situation. If some fees amounting to a little over six million dollars are resolved properly is obviously of no consequence to a company the size of Chevron. (They donate fifty times that amount to charities every year.) But being able to begin the discovery process, Chevron is heading off at the pass efforts by the current government to execute a strategy of immediate containment to reduce any damage or mitigate the effects of actions by multinational organizations and corporations to diminish Ecuador’s reputation.
Sounds to me as if Ecuador’s reputation could use a bit of diminishing. And if that happens, the citizens might be able to take a bit more control, reduce corruption and take back some power. Chevron generated a lot of revenue for those in power in Ecuador during the brief period when the company they bought out was involved there. Now they have the chance to do something substantial for the citizens of the country by exposing the corruption at the highest levels which led to this fiasco in the first place.