Parables help us make sense of a mysterious world. Slow and steady, the tortoise teaches the hare a lesson in overconfidence. David has a surprise for towering Goliath. Lawyers and environmental activists fighting Chevron in a closely watched oil pollution case in Ecuador invoke an inherently appealing theme of poor, rural underdogs taking on a rich, cosmopolitan foe. Fresh filings with the U.S. Department of Justice provide a reminder, however, that the rain forest-contamination conflict is more complicated than a fable.
Filings under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) by two U.S.-based public-relations firms reveal extensive support the government of Ecuador is providing the plaintiffs’ side in a long-running legal campaign to hold Chevron liable for pollution in the Amazon. During just a one-year period ended in April, Ecuador paid more than $6.4 million for the services of two U.S. PR firms, “a stunning figure in the niche business of foreign government lobbying,” according to a June 10 report by The Hill, a Washington publication expert in such matters.