LATIN AMERICA BRIEFS

Ecuador

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa launched “The Dirty Hands of Chevron” campaign on Sept. 17 to expose at an international level the criminal contamination that this company is responsible for in the Amazon region.

From 1964 to 1990, 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater and 17 million gallons of crude oil were purposely spilled into the Amazon through unsafe and obsolete drilling practices by Texaco, which later merged with Chevron. In the campaign video showing the oil-ridden waters of one of the thousand open pits left behind by Texaco, President Correa stated that this damage is of enormous proportions, “85 times worse than the environmental damage caused by the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico and 18 times more than the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.”

This contamination has affected more than 35,000 area residents, mostly Indigenous people, resulting in more than a thousand deaths, the disappearance of Indigenous communities, an increased rate of cancer and many other illnesses, besides the massive negative impact on the Amazon’s environment. (noticiaspia.org)

Residents of the area first sued Chevron in 1993 in a federal court in the U.S. and in 2001 the federal judge ruled that it was not within U.S. jurisdiction, sending the case to Ecuador. In 2011, an Ecuadorean court found Chevron guilty and imposed a $9 billion fine, which has risen to $19 billion due to Chevron’s refusal to pay. The U.S. company instead has launched a cruel vilification campaign against Ecuador and its Indigenous people, helped by the U.S. government, which has even refused, this September, to grant visas to several Indigenous representatives who were going to testify at the United Nations.

Venezuela

In another act of imperialist arrogance and hostility, the U.S. denied Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s plane the right to fly through the airspace of its colony, Puerto Rico, on President Maduro’s flight to China. On Sept. 19, President Maduro publicly denounced it, adding that the U.S. had also denied visas to two members of the Venezuelan delegation to attend the upcoming General Assembly of the United Nations.

This was a reminder of the recent act of aggression by the U.S./NATO against Bolivian President Evo Morales when, on his return trip from Russia, several U.S.-allied European countries denied airspace rights to the presidential plane, putting his life in peril.

It was not until the protest of several Latin American countries that cited the violation of four international norms of diplomatic relations, plus the intense pressure from the Venezuelan government itself, that the U.S. government reversed its refusal.

Adding insult to injury, this U.S. act was also a cruel attack against the people of Puerto Rico. In this regard, nationalist leader Rafael Cancel Miranda told Telesur: “The insolence of the imperialists has no limit. What right do they have, to say who flies or not over my homeland? As a Puerto Rican, I feel more than honored to have comrade Maduro visit my home, but as Maduro himself said, we are unfortunately a colony controlled by U.S. interests; we are what they would like all Latin America to be.”

Mexico

United States Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Mexico, not to offer any aid after the terrible devastation of three storms that took the lives of more than 100 people and caused enormous damage, particularly to the south of the country, but to support the neoliberal reforms of the current government.

President Enrique Peña Nieto last December signed the “Pact for Mexico,” an anti-people package of laws that would require changes to the current Constitution in order to be implemented. These laws would include among other items, the privatization of PEMEX, the national oil company, and a reform of the public education system that will hurt both students and teachers.

Although it merits a separate article, we need to at least mention here the awesome show of strength and determination of the CNTE, the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers, who have been in constant struggle since last July. They took over the Zócalo, the main plaza in Mexico City, until Peña Nieto ordered the Federal Police to evict them with violent repression on Sept. 13 in order to use the Plaza for the Independence “Shout” two days later.

The teachers, who have gathered support from other groups, have continued the fight against the reforms, taking over other spaces and demonstrating daily.