By Jason Stverak
When Latin America lost Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez last year, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa stepped in to fill the gap as socialism’s godfather. But Correa’s aspirations are coming at a huge price for Ecuador and its people.
PAY UP: The government of Ecuador is trying to shake down Chevron.
While Chavez lavishly doled funds from his petrodollar-stocked treasury to promote authoritarian socialism throughout the region, Ecuador has merely one-fourth of Venezuela’s gross domestic product, and its proven oil reserves are only 3 percent of what Chavez could tap. Without large national revenues, how can Ecuador’s tyrant match Venezuela’s?
A shakedown, which is exactly what Ecuador’s legal system has done to Chevron.
During his campaign and time in office, Correa vociferously advocated for the lawyers who filed a lawsuit against Chevron Corp. The questionably “indigenous peoples” they represented claimed that Texaco, bought out by Chevron in 2000, created hundreds of toxic waste pits and illegally dumped billions of gallons of pollutants until 1992. Since then, the Ecuadorian state oil company Petroecuador has continued to drill in the region—including many new wells—and has one of the worst environmental records in Latin America.