Summary of the Movie
Crude is a documentary film following the development of a class-action lawsuit brought
by the indigenous population in Ecuador against Chevron-Texaco Corporation. The lawsuit was
filed in 1993 by 30,000 Ecuadoreans against Texaco. When Chevron merged with Texaco in
2001 they inherited the lawsuit. The claim was initially filed in the United States, Chevron
fought for 9 years to move the case to Ecuador. The pollution of the indigenous people’s land in
the Amazon is suggested to be the result of Chevron-Texaco Corporation’s oil extraction process
that has negatively affected the lives of the population.
The oil drilling in the Amazon has led to the oil spilling into the streams that cross the
Aguarico River. The main water source used by the indigenous population became contaminated
as a result of the oil spills. In addition, since the oil drilling started there was an increase in the
number of health issues reported among the population. The pollution also led to the death of a
majority of wildlife that resides in the area. The documentary was made to raise awareness of the
environmental impact caused by Chevron.
II. International Principles
The United Nation’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights lays out core
principles that both States and corporations should abide by. States have an existing obligation to
respect, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms. Corporations are required to
comply with all applicable laws and to respect human rights. Both parties have a responsibility to
provide effective remedies if there is a breach.
In this instance, under the foundational principle for the State Ecuador was required to
protect the indigenous population against any human rights violations. The Ecuadorean
government needs to pass legislation to prevent environmental pollutions caused by oil drilling.
The Ecuadoran government failed to protect the indigenous communities, they did not
thoroughly investigate the situation or redress it and punish Chevron for the pollution. States
must also provide access to an effective and accessible judicial remedy. Ecuador’s judicial
system was not accessible and was prone to corruption. One of the obstacles to the judicial
process was that the lawyers representing the indigenous people had to fly to the United States to
get the funding to conduct the investigation to produce the evidence for trial. Both the United
States and Ecuador judicial systems did not provide a system that allowed for the situation to be
resolved within a reasonable timeframe.
Under the Corporation’s foundational principle they have a duty to not infringe on human
rights and should address the adverse human rights impact that they are involved in. Chevron did
appoint the company’s Environmental Scientist to carry out an assessment of the situation. After
the assessment, Chevron concluded that the pollution did not result from their oil extraction
process but that it was Texaco’s previous practices before the companies merged. Chevron also
has the responsibility to refrain from continuing to add to the pollution. Chevron should adhere
to the operational principle and enact policies that respect human rights, engage in due diligence
to identify and prevent human rights violations and enact processes to enable the remediation of
any adverse human rights impact they are involved in.
III. My Take-Away
I found it extremely difficult to watch the film but it showed me how important it is to
have international human rights laws. I did not like the fact that Chevron relied on a company
official to carry out the assessment. I think the Ecuadorean government should have carried out
an investigation and not relied only on the assessments from the two sides. Just as the United
States has the Environmental Protection Agency tasked with investigating environmental matters
Ecuador should create a similar agency. My overall takeaways are that the international
community needs to do more to protect indigenous lands from environmental pollution by
enacting a legally binding treaty.
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