Friday, January 13, 2012

Crafty Craig, Chevron's Man In Ecuador, Up to No Good Again

We reported not long ago that James Craig, Chevron's man in Ecuador, refused to deny to a Miami Herald reporter that his employer had offered the government of Ecuador a bribe to pressure the courts to dismiss the lawsuit against the oil giant.

Today we have an update on the latest crafty Craig move:

Craig escorted a New Yorker reporter to some of the contaminated oil pits in the rainforest. After accusing Ecuadorian indigenous people of "spiking" the water with fresh oil to give the appearance of contamination, he downplayed the thick, oily surface on top of the pits by explaining it was only a few inches thick. Later the reporter wrote:
"A few miles outside Lago Agrio, we stood on the lip of a waste pit, and Craig told me that the vile-looking residue on its surface was only a few inches thick. To illustrate this point, he picked up a rock and lobbed it into the pit. It landed, with a sickly thud, on the surface. “If we had a bigger rock . . .” he said, and threw a much larger one. It, too, failed to sink."
What also has failed to sink into Craig's head is that he sounds absolutely like the shrill he is when he declares: "Chevron has never identified a positive reading for hydrocarbon contamination" in the rainforest.

The New Yorker reporter also spent time viewing the pits with Ecuadorians. Here is what he had to say:
"During the plaintiffs’ portion of the tour, a local man named Donald Moncayo showed me around. Wearing white surgical gloves, he dug up a fistful of black mud and held it so that the sunlight caught the telltale blue-orange tint of petroleum. At one fetid pit in a jungle glade, he stepped gingerly onto the surface of the pool, where the solid matter in the produced water had congealed into a tarlike crust that was sturdy enough to support him. Smiling a little, Moncayo shifted his weight from one foot to the other, until the whole surface began to undulate beneath him. He looked like a kid on a waterbed. According to the plaintiffs, there are nearly a thousand of these pits in the Oriente, scattered across an area the size of Rhode Island.

Watching Moncayo, I had a sense of déjà vu. He is the regular master of ceremonies on the toxic tour; I had read accounts of his routine, and had seen it enacted, in nearly identical fashion, in “Crude,” the Berlinger documentary. But, if Moncayo’s cadences were rote, there was nothing feigned about his indignation. He led me down a steep ravine to a creek. In the gauzy light filtering through the canopy, the water, which was only a foot deep, looked crystalline. Moncayo drove a stick into the creek bed and churned the mud until the water grew clouded by sediment. At his encouragement, I skimmed my hand across the surface of the creek. My palm was coated in an acrid film."

If only Craig had had a bigger rock ...