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Ecuador’s Pricey PR Fuels Fight Against Chevron in Pollution Case

Ecuadorean protesters demonstrate outside the U.S. courthouse in New York
Ecuadorean protesters demonstrate outside the U.S. courthouse in New YorkPhotograph by Scott Houston/Corbis

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.