Criminalizing Activism – Steven Donziger vs Chevron


EcoJustice RadioHuman Rights Attorney Steven Donziger, fighting to make Chevron pay $9.5 billion to clean up their mess left behind after decades of oil drilling, dumping, and spilling in Ecuador, is sentenced and serving six months in jail for “Criminal Contempt.” EcoJustice Radio interviewed him on the original case and the efforts by Chevron-friendly judges to stop him from advocating for the Ecuadorian people.

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Steven Donziger, Ecuador, Chevron, EcoJustice RadioSteven Donziger Fights for the Ecuadorian People and Goes to Jail for Winning the Case

Check out our special encore presentation of our interview with Human Rights Attorney Steven Donziger recorded in December 2020. We investigate the story of Chevron’s crimes in Ecuador with Mr. Donziger who represented Ecuadorian communities demanding justice in a $9.5 billion decision against them for one of the largest-ever oil disasters.

In a move calculated to shield Chevron and deter other lawyers from suing giant corporate polluters, Donziger was sentenced on October 1 of this year to the maximum of six months in prison for criminal contempt. While the case is being appealed, he continues to live under house arrest with the threat of prison hanging over his head.

Between 1964 and 1992, Chevron (then Texaco) illegally dumped 16 billion gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador’s rainforest, a disaster that contaminated rivers and groundwater, destroyed forests and farms, and set off waves of cancer and birth defects in communities across an area of ancestral Indigenous land the size of Rhode Island. Impoverished victims of corporate malfeasance rarely have the resources to challenge their tormentors in court. But in 1993, Indigenous and campesino activists fighting to support “Los Afectados,” the name used for those affected by the public health crises that Chevron’s pollution created, asked a young lawyer named Steven Donziger to help them take legal action. In 1994, this coalition founded the Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia (FDA).

Donziger and FDA worked together to bring a class-action lawsuit demanding justice on behalf of 30,000 Afectados. And in 2011, after nearly two decades of litigation and advocacy, a Chevron-instigated venue change from New York to Ecuador, eight years at trial, and three levels of appeals, Donziger and FDA won. An Ecuadorian court ordered the company to pay $18 billion—later reduced to $9.5 billion—to clean up its toxic waste and provide for the health needs of the people it had poisoned. In 2018, Ecuador’s highest court upheld the judgment.

Steven Donziger joined EcoJustice Radio to talk about the case, what actually took place, the historic retaliation against himself and the Ecuadorian Peoples, and how Chevron’s actions set a dangerous precedent and represent a growing and serious threat to the ability of civil society to hold corporations accountable for their misdeeds around the world.

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Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Producer: Emilia Barrosse
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 84
Photo courtesy Steven Donziger

Updated 2 December 2021

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt