It's no conspiracy, says Paul Paz y Miño of Amazon Watch in his blog about the subpoena Chevron served on Amazon Watch, one of the most effective environmental advocacy organizations in the country.
It's truth telling, and, last time we checked, that wasn't against the law.
Chevron, though, could care less, writes Paz y Miño.
"Not only is this invasive subpoena request a flagrant attack on our first-amendment rights, it is also an attempt at miring our organization in a protected and tangential lawsuit, designed to burden our resources and distract us from our goal: justice in the Amazon."
Amazon Watch, dedicated to helping communities in the Amazon region protect their lands, has been an outspoken defender of the Ecuadorians who recently won a $19 billion judgment against Chevron for massive contamination in the rainforest. Because Chevron has refused to pay the judgment, the Ecuadorians have filed lawsuits in Canada, Brazil and Argentina to freeze and seize Chevron's assets there. See here. (Chevron has few assets in Ecuador.)
In turn, Chevron has filed lawsuits in the United States to stop enforcement of the judgment. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court put a stop to that, but another lawsuit seeks to show that the Ecuadorians, their lawyers and supporters "conspired" through a "racketeering" campaign to force Chevron to pay a settlement.
In that effort, Chevron has intimidated and harassed hundreds of people, including its own shareholders, who favor Chevron being held accountable for its misconduct in Ecuador.
Subpoenaed for documents or depositions include environmentalist advocates, like the people who work for Amazon Watch, law students who spent a summer in Ecuador working on the case, others who had little to do with the litigation and even shareholders, an action that drew criticism recently from a New York Times business columnist.
Paz y Miño, though, hits the nail on the head when he calls Chevron's "conspiracy" theories nothing more than what other environmental groups did when Exxon spilled oil in Alaska and BP on the U.S. Gulf Coast; what consumer groups and advocates for homeowners did when banks ripped off home buyers with predatory loans and then ripped them off again with illegal foreclosures; what gun control advocates are doing now to stop the killing of innocent people: they are exercising their First Amendment rights, telling the truth about how Chevron's intentional contamination destroyed what was once a pristine rainforest.
"What we are witnessing now is the last chapter of a 50-year campaign of human rights abuses by Chevron. And if they are successful in their desperate subpoena of hundreds of thousands of Amazon Watch documents, what they will find, ironically, is not that AW has been part of any alleged conspiracy, but rather nothing more than the spirit, the resolve, the compassion, and the intellect that we have brought to telling the truth about what Chevron did in Ecuador, and that in turn has helped bring the company to its knees."
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