Indigenous Leaders of Ecuador Protest Chevron In Front of Petroleum Museum

Indigenous Leaders of Ecuador Protest Chevron In Front of Petroleum Museum

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - If you drove down I-20 this morning, you might have noticed some protestors in front of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. It all has to do with oil allegedly contaminating Ecuador's Amazon Rainforest.

Many took to our Facebook page this morning saying they received e-mails bribing them with $85 to join this protest. Chevron says this contamination is in fact happening in Ecuador but it's not their responsibility to clean it up.

"Cancer, Leukemia, birth defects in children, and abortions in women. A thing you wouldn't see before," Robinson Yumbo, member of the Cofan Tribe in Ecuador, said.

Those are the effects Yumbo's says his people are facing in Ecuador due to the contamination of their rivers and the Amazon Rainforest for more than 20 years. He and Javier Piaguaje are in West Texas fighting for the 30,000 affected, including five indigenous nationalities.

"Seven of my family members have died. My guardian, two cousins, my niece, and my grandfather. It's a tragic affect that's happened to me," Javier Piaguaje, member of the Secoya Tribe in Ecuador, said.

They use the rivers where oil operations take place to bathe, clean and drink on a daily basis. They say there is no other water source available to them and it's Chevron's responsibility to clean it up.

"Inside where the oil was, we would go underwater and wash ourselves off. But no one had the true information on what could happen if we did that," Piaguaje said.

Wednesday morning, Chevron held their annual shareholders meeting at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Close to 30 protestors were out front fighting for justice. But a few NewsWest 9 viewers took to our Facepage page, painting a different story of these supporters. At least two viewers claim they received an e-mail from a protest organizer offering $85 to participate.

"The case has been proven a fraud. The case was litigated in New York and a U.S. Federal Court in March ruled that the case was completely fraudulent and meritless," Chevron Media Relations Advisor, Justin Higgs, said.

Chevron acknowledges the claims by protestors, but they say it is no longer in their hands.

"There is contamination on the ground but the contamination is the responsibility of the government of Ecuador," Higgs said.

They say Chevron never operated in Ecuador. They were part of a group that did. Texaco operated in Ecuador but left the country in 1992. Chevron says they bought Texaco in the early 2000's and cleaned up their share.

"It spent three years and $40 million cleaning up sights in Ecuador and having full-government sign off of any liability. So any of the conditions you see on the ground or that the folks are talking about here today are actually the responsibility of their government to their people," Higgs said.

Celebrities have stepped foot in the Amazon, supporting the cleanup efforts.

"They arrived and put their hand in the oil, and showed the entire world what the contamination looks like. This means, everything that's happening to the Amazon is not a lie," Piaguaje said.

Piaguaje and Yumbo will continue their fight for justice until their home is cleaned up for good.

"We just want to live, above all, like we did before, enjoying the fruits of our environment. Even with repairs, we will never be 100% like we were before," Piaguaje said.

The Washington Times says after Chevron won in U.S. District Court in the $9 billion Ecuador Rainforest case, a spokesman for the indigenous villiagers said, "The focus now is on enforcing their judgment in countries where they can receive a fair hearing."