Justino Piaguage: "Justice has become science fiction in the service of companies"


25 years ago, indigenous communities and peasants of the Amazonia of Ecuador fought for the multinational Chevron, the heir of Texaco, to indemnify them for having infected their territory in oil. The Constitutional Court has given reason to the Siekopai people, which represents Justino Piaguage, but has not yet seen a dollar of the 9,500 million that have been fixed as compensation. On the contrary, the transnationals have turned to the international arbitration courts, which ordered Quito not to execute the sentence and, on the other hand, to indemnify Chevron for the damages suffered in the trial.

What happened because now the compensation can not be performed?

It is a clear case of impunity for multinational companies. The company went to a private arbitration court to demand that the government of Ecuador pay, as if they were saying "Go and kill people". Chevron calls on Ecuador to violate its constitution, which does not take into account its sovereignty.

Do they give up?

The struggle continues; I think we are a stronghold of resistance. The Ecuadorian state must begin to defend itself and not only regret and be a subject submissive. You must act quickly. We have fought for 25 years and it is not possible that with all its economic and political power, the state allows us to bypass our rights. With this case, it is clear that multinational companies have no responsibility if they commit an environmental crime and that when they ask for compensation they always pay attention to them.

Is environmental damage still visible or have actions already been undertaken to recover the territory?

There is oil everywhere, it is buried, connects the wells and is filtered to the head of the rivers. You do not have to be a scientist to see it, or have a technical or scientific report. If the judges or those of the arbitral tribunal have doubts, come and see the extent of pollution that can touch the oil. Justice has become a science, a science fiction and this structure has been transferred to private courts. People who have not even visited the area make decisions just to protect the interests of the multinationals.

What are the damage to health of living with oil?

We have high rates of cancer and very rare diseases. We took the oil stains with their hands thinking it was wax and that he used to put stakes in the canoe. Nobody warned us about the risk.

What do the people in the region live in?

This is another problem. The traditional lifestyle, fishing, hunting and crafts are difficult to keep closed in a territory. Right now we have just created a map of the territory to decide where we dedicate ourselves to agriculture and know where we can go on and what activities we can develop. We believe that it can be grown taking into account the development of the community. But there are those who want to bet on extensive crops, such as palm and fish farming.

It is not easy to choose environmentalism if survival is not guaranteed.

Yes, and for that, I, as a community leader, I'm sorry because I can not give better alternatives. But we must also carry out community work, because these economic problems lead us to complex problems of cultural transition. We do not want to die of hunger and we must look for alternatives.

What cultural problems?

The strong social pressure and that the young people who go to the city adopt a vision of the market, lose our vision of the world. But we are committed to ensuring that the new generation maintains traditions and does not lose sight of the spiritual dimension, to see the jungle as a living being.

How has pollution of the earth influenced cultural change?

Cultural weakness begins as a consequence of oil extraction. Perforation of the territory has generated an impact and can not be followed by the transfer of knowledge of the millennium. I remember a wise man who told us that the place was too dirty to do ceremonies. But today we continue to resist and survive, and in August we save some customs, traditional sowing or hunting, which are now traditional games to reduce the gap and that children do not lose their cultural memory.

What is missing in childhood?

Purity, connection with nature, wisdom of a millenary culture. Living with poison, with oil, is very sad. I remember the beaches, the rivers where we used to swim. Our river was called Río de Peces Abundantes and now the river has only its name. Surely I witness the death of a generation that has had great wisdom, and now I see how a weak generation arises. They are among those who have called pigs to go down the mountain to eat and those who do not see it.

If it is difficult to quantify the material damage, doing it with the cultural ones must be even more.

It is impossible to quantify intangible damage. The exploitation of oil has led to the death of two peoples, with their language, their wisdom and their way of seeing the world. We know that it will never be the same again, but we must continue for those who are now old and that when they were young they started fighting.


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