Ecuador: Victims of big oil speak

Issue 

Emergildo Criollo, 51, is a community leader of the indigenous Cofan nationality and has lived in Dureno since his small community was displaced from their ancestral lands. Since a massive oil spill in the 1960s contaminated the Aguarico River, his family and community have suffered untold side affects.

Two of his children have died. One never developed physically or mentally and died after six months. The other swam in the river the day a toxic pit nearby was cleaned out. He began to vomit black liquid and died less than 24 hours later.

Criollo's wife has had her uterus removed due to cancer and is still sick; his aunt died of mouth cancer. He wants Chevron to take responsibility for Texaco's actions and clean the contamination of the rivers and land. Without clean air and water, his community may not survive another generation.

Flor Tangoyo is a member of the indigenous Siona nationality and part of a small community near the Aguarico River, the biggest river in the Sucumbios province. The territory of the Siona has been dramatically reduced by oil exploration and extraction.

The land they have managed to keep has become contaminated with oil and waste products from the industry and their people are suffering from many illnesses. Tangoyo said the resulting social problems have particularly hurt women. Many women of her community have suffered sexual assaults from oil workers.

Women of the region have also suffered from severe reproductive problems including spontaneous miscarriage, reproductive cancers and birth defects in their children.

Servio Curipoma is a farm worker or campesino from the village of San Carlos in the Ecuadorian Amazon. He has suffered enormously due to oil contamination caused by Texaco. The smell of crude oil on his land is unmistakable.

As our guide, also a plaintiff against Chevron, dug into the soil, the thick, black liquid began to seep from the ground. I was all too aware of what this meant to Curipoma. After all, this is his land, where he and his family have lived.

His father died from cancer on the day Curipoma's son was born, and he later lost his mother, also to cancer. His family bought the land unaware it had been used as a waste pit and simply covered by soil when it was "remediated".

He said he believed he also had cancer, but was too afraid to be tested. He does not want his children to experience the pain he endured watching his parents die.

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