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Development, the environment and Ecuador's oil patch: the context and nuances of the case against Texaco.


it was not until the prelude of the class action lawsuit initiated in 1993 by 30,000 residents of Ecuador's Amazonian region, or Oriente, that ecological concerns emerged as a nationally recognized problem associated with the extractive sector--in this case, the oil industry. This piece will trace the problematization of environmental issues vis-a-vis conceptualizations of development in Ecuador since the discovery of oil there nearly a century ago. Themes of sustainability and ecological concerns remain at a nascent stage within the country's framework of development and security. The central problem in the country's oil patch is not the horrendous level of pollution produced by any single company, but the systemic logic of petroleum extraction in the region that continues to result in massive ecocide. Still prevalent in the petro-fields is the Modernist conception of development that features the false notion of 'man's conquest of nature.' That pernicious tendency is exacerbated by populist politics that have spelled a tyranny of the majority that is deaf to local pleas to halt environmental destruction in the Oriente.

Ecuador's history of development is marked by a pronounced reliance on the primary sector, from cocao to bananas, and most recently to a focus on the extractive industry within the context of the global commodity boom of the new millennium. We shall trace the conceptual paths of development pursued by the country to its current juncture. The era of the Correa presidency has featured an odd admixture of neoliberalism and leftist populism on the part of the government, as well as elements of post-development pursued by grass roots social movements that struggle to incorporate ecological concerns into national developmental schemes. These movements have demonstrated the social power of local agency and knowledge, the significance of inclusive capacity building in developmental projects, and the utility of global networks of surveillance to combat horrendous ecocide perpetrated by forces that wish to remain hidden. Foucauldian roots of the post-development perspective are clearly visible in the social struggle to define the country's development, especially his notion of biopolitics whereby the living social body underpins conceptions of development and security. We shall begin with an historical discussion of developmental paths in the country, and then turn to a pilot project involving the author that focuses on post-development approaches to sustainability and human security in Ecuador. This shall be followed by an analytical conclusion.


Phase One: 1921 to World War Two

The state's historic failure to escape development schemes linked almost solely to the agro-mineral-petroleum sector has spelled wild cycles of economic boom and bust. Ecuador's economic history featured the cocao era from 1860 to 1920, the emergence of the concept of 'developmentalism' that was linked to the banana boom of 1948 to 1965, and the post-1972 reliance on the volatile petroleum sector to lift the country's GDP. (1) The nation's historically entrenched staple economy, combined with its lack of economic diversification, created an economic rollercoaster that has underpinned the state's notorious record of weakness and the country's penchant for political instability--most recently evident in what the government and many observers say was a coup attempt in September 2010. Since its engagement in the petroleum industry, Ecuador has depended heavily on foreign transnational corporations for both knowledge and capital. This predicament shaped a highly asymmetric power relationship that limited the state's capacity to work as an agent of development, and at times has spawned the corruption of local officials.

Oil was used by the indigenous in the Oriente to waterproof canoes and to seal earthen cookware. In 1888, geographer Manuel Villavicencio published work that noted the obvious presence of petroleum in the region. (2) In 1921, at the dawn of a century marked by the global worship of petroleum-based wealth and power associated with Fordism, the Ecuadorian government established the Law of Mineral Deposits and Oilfields in anticipation of the country's engagement in the industry. In 1923 the government provided 2.5 million hectares for concessions o foil exploration to Delaware-based Leonard Exploration Company, which was revealed a decade later to be a shell for Standard Oil Corporation. A pattern of corporate duplicity, then, has been evident since the beginning of the petroleum industry in the country. So, too, has been a proclivity toward political instability whereby the Ecuadorian military periodically has assumed state power under the rubric of populist interests that included the indigenous and the poor. This stands in sharp contrast to the role of the armed forces in other Latin American countries, such as Colombia, which have worked at the behest of the nation's oligarchs. In the Ecuadorian case, the 1925 Revolucion Juliana heralded the military's role as guarantor of social justice against the backdrop of greed and mismanagement on the part of the country's leading financial elites just prior to the Great Depression. (3)

An important episode occurred in 1937 when President Federico Paez cancelled a concession made to Leonard Exploration, the company controlled by Standard Oil, due to its failure to pay a debt as well as the lack of tangible results after six years of exploration in the Oriente. One prominent interpretation suggests that Standard Oil, through its subsidiary International Petroleum Company in Peru, "actively encouraged and financed the expansionist tendencies" in the Peruvian government to seize 20,000 square kilometers of Ecuador's Oriente where Standard Oil had previously operated. Standard worked in the same territory again once it became part of Peru. (4) The Ecuadorian military could not defend itself against the better armed and financed Peruvian forces. It proved to be a bitter lesson for Ecuador that the government was reluctant to accept until it signed a peace agreement with Peru in 1998, up to which time official Ecuadorian maps included in its territory the land seized by Peru. From the appearance of oil companies in 1921 until the dramatic effects emanating from the world order in the aftermath of World War Two, the newfangled problem faced by the Ecuadorian government vis-a-vis the extractive industry was how to manage unfathomably powerful Northern petroleum companies that monopolized capital and knowledge and that had the capacity to threaten the country's stability and security.

Phase Two: 1948-1964, Bananas--the Age of Development

As the post-development theorist Gustavo Esteva famously observed "... what 'development' connotates is always, at least, one thing: escaping from a vague, unspeakable, undignified condition called sub-desarrollo or underdevelopment, a term which was invented by Harry Truman on January 10, 1949." (5) Given Latin America's role as solidly within the US sphere of influence in a newly constructed world order at the end of WWII that pitted US capitalism against Soviet communism, the conception of 'development' during this era meant schemes designed to raise the standard of living for the majority population so they would resist the temptation for a redistribution of wealth propagated by the left. The result for Ecuador was the era of the Banana Boom that lasted from 1948 through 1965. Rather than the model of Important Substitution Industrialization pursued by Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, the economy of Ecuador was focused on primary agricultural production and concentrated expertise upon one crop. While the plan focused on macroeconomic growth propelled by bananas, there was no initial focus on the pronounced inequity of wealth and land, nor upon the sub-development that was pervasive among indigenous populations in the highlands. After the Cuban Revolution of 1959, the Kennedy Administration constructed the Alliance for Progress developmental project designed to halt the spread of communism in the region. While a small communist party was established in Ecuador during 1947, peaceful leftist demonstrations, as well as series of land invasions and workers' strikes, began to proliferate in the early 1960s. A military government (1963-1966) in 1964 designed a "moderate' land reform program to subdue rising tensions. (6) That year also marked a major turning point whereby the country's developmental hopes were pinned to the oil industry.

Even during the era of the Banana Boom, there were incremental developments in the oil industry. In 1946, the first exploratory well in the Oriente was operated by Shell. Two years later, a Gulf Oil and Standard Oil consortium was granted four million hectares of land for oil exploration. But it was Texaco that was to play the dominant role in Ecuador's Amazonian region. From the beginning, the company's role in the region was marked by controversy. In 1961, 4.35 million hectares of land were granted as concessions to Minas y Petroleos del Ecuador, which was controlled by Phoenix Canada Oil Co. of Toronto and Norsul Oil and Mining of Albany, Georgia. Both were controlled by Howard Strouth, who unilaterally transferred 1.65 million hectares of this land to two other companies that finally passed to a Texaco Gulf Consortium in 1965. All this was done without the knowledge of the Ecuadorian military government. A year earlier, Texaco Gulf had signed a deal with the military government for a contract covering 1.431 million hectares of land for a 40 year period, leading one observer to note that these developments left the "effective rule of the Oriente in the hands of Texaco-Gulf. (7)

The oil boom, centered in the Oriente, officially began in 1967 when the Texaco-Gulf Consortium drilled its first successful well in Sucumbio's Lago Agrio, producing about 2,640 barrels of oil daily. Between 1967 and 1987, 138 exploratory wells were established, with about 80% of these in the Oriente. (8) In 1969 Texaco-Gulf re-established its contract with the government after the initial five year period expired. The government allowed the Consortium to retain its favored 500,000 hectares, but requested that they return another 930,000 to the government. With the additional concessions they had in Coca, Texaco-Gulf possessed 1.15 million hectares in 1969. The company agreed to pay royalties at a relatively low rate of 11.5 percent, and agreed to a contract that stipulated that 80 percent of its administrative personnel and 95 percent of its workers be Ecuadorian. Despite these concessions, the oil-rich Oriente was controlled by foreign TNCs. (9)

Phase Three: Oil and the Quest for Development

The 1970s marked a major turning point for Ecuador. Oil would begin to dominate the economy, and, with mixed results, would be the centerpiece of development schemes over the forthcoming decades. Ecuador's engagement in the petroleum industry during this period commenced with a dizzying pace since it coincided with OPEC-related price increases during the 1970s whereby the sky seemed to be the limit for petro-profits. All this coincided with the establishment of two military governments in Ecuador during the 1970s, which were motivated by center-lett nationalist tendencies. Those governments ran up considerable debt that they had imagined would be balanced by forthcoming oil profits, a calculation that proved disastrous in the early 1980s. Let us explore these points in greater detail.

As we can see from Table One, oil production in Ecuador's Oriente entered a boom in 1972. Production capacity rose from 4,100 thousand barrels of oil per day in 1971 to over 200,000 barrels of oil per day by 1973, the year in which Ecuador became a full member of OPEC. Oil went from 1 percent of total exports in 1971 to 65% in 1974. All this transpired with a government established by a military coup in 1972, which justified its actions in the following manner:
   The constant failures of governments, absence of the people in
   centers of decision, the administrative immorality and
   inefficiency, the incapacity and insincerity of political parties
   and groups to interpret popular aspirations and the fundamental
   economic structure, have determined the existence of an unjust and
   backward society, with small oppressing groups and the majority
   oppressed. Facing this situation the Armed Forces, responsible for
   the survival of the Ecuadorian State ... is prepared to implant a
   new national, ideological political doctrine, which permits it to
   carry through the substantial transformation in the socioeconomic
   and juridical order which the Republic demands. (10)

The Ecuadorian military has acted as a populist and nationalist force at various points in the country's history with the periodic collapse of feeble political structures that failed to represent popular forces. In this case, the crisis concerned the state's capacity to manage the huge force of transnationa[ oil corporations in a manner that reflected the interests of the majority population and the fortification of the government. This emerged against the backdrop of a rising nationalist and leftist tide in Latin American during the 1970s, with the 1970 election of the Allende government in Chile and the rising popularity of dependency theory proposed by the Brazilian academic Theotonio Dos Santos, whose second and highly influential book on this topic called Dependency and Social Change was published in 1972. That approach underscored the perils for Southern development of servitude to transnational corporations and of a reliance on trade, investment and aid from a single state such as the US. This also coincided with a period when US hegemony appeared to be challenged with Soviet nuclear parity, the loss of Vietnam, the Nixon debacle, the collapse of Bretton Woods, and so on--in other words, globally and regionally within Latin America, this was a popular time to challenge US interests and to assert the interests of Southern power. Overall, this global and regional political context set the stage in Ecuador for a major redefinition of development that was constructed upon the petroleum industry. Rising oil production occurred during a period of a spectacular price escalation between 1974 and 1979, due the formation of OPEC of which Ecuador became a full member in 1973.

What did all this mean for the Ecuadorian economy? We notice from Table Two that the country's GDP per capita grew substantially in 1973 at 12.83 percent, coinciding with the aforementioned jump in oil production during that year. This settled to generally modest but solid growth for most of the rest of the decade. This coincided with a dramatic jump in gross national income per capita from $317 US in 1970 to a peak of $ 1,864 in 1981 (in 2008 prices). During this initial boom in the country's petroleum industry, Ecuador's state oil company, Corporacion Estatal Petrolera Ecuatoriana (CEPE), bought 25% of the Texaco-Gulf consortium in the country in 1974, and by 1976 proceeded to buy out Gulf's stake (11)--a point to which shall return. There was much political intrigue during this period, with the military government that was established in 1972 falling to another coup in 1976. There were multiple reasons for the coup of January 1976, including opposition by the wealthy to the government's reformist policies, President Lara's inability to construct a solid support base, and by what turned out to be the domination of the petroleum multinationals over the populist military government. (12)

The new military government which appeared on 12 January 1976 placed the issue of oil at the forefront of its policy, since the economic development of the country so clearly depended upon it. The idea was to assert I more control over the TNCs amidst increasing friction with them. One issue concerned a demand by Texaco to lower the price per barrel of oil produced in Ecuador by $1.05US. The Ecuadorian government viewed this as bullying. In addition to refusing to lower prices, it considered nationalizing the stake of Texaco and other corporations in the industry. Ecuador's Minister of National Resources observed that nationalization "would mean the realization of the sovereign right to dispose with total freedom a natural resource that is fundamental for the social development of the nation.... (and would be) administered by the State by means of CEPE. This is the only form in which the exploration of the deposits is converted into true national wealth." (13) Further, both Texaco and Gulf hesitated and haggled over taxes they owed to the government. The drama ended at the end of December 1976, when, as noted earlier, CEPE bought out Gulf's stake in the country. Now there was a newfangled consortium whereby CEPE owned 62.5% and Texaco possessed the rest. (14) Despite the government's majority share, Texaco clearly dominated the relationship due to its knowledge, technical capacity and capital.

The central problems fur Ecuador with regard to development in the 1970s were twofold: I) how to shift from a model based largely on the exportation of bananas to a model of development based on the petroleum industry: and 2) how to manage the vast power of petro-TNCs that controlled knowledge, technology and capital in a manner that led to growing prosperity for the country. Those problems were framed within a context of rising nationalism in Latin America during the 1970s, and by the new found power of OPEC of which Ecuador was a member. The context was also marked by challenges to US hegemony in the region, and by the leadership of military governments in the country that attempted to act at the behest of the majority population against the backdrop of political fragmentation rather than national hegemony.

Tectonic shifts occurred in the 1980s that redefined the problematization of development. These included the collapse of oil prices, and the emergence of a long pattern of debt servitude from which Ecuador has not yet escaped. We saw that in the 1970s the emergence of the oil industry in the country meant that the value of its exports increased tenfold from $235 million in 1970 to $25 billion in 1980. Despite the bonanza of the oil boom, Ecuador plunged into an abyss of debt--a predicament experienced by other Latin American countries that benefited from the petroleum industry such as Venezuela and Mexico. During the 1970s in Ecuador, the military governments increased the size and scope of government, and expanded social welfare programs. The oil bounty stimulated a growing appetite for state expansion and for the development of the country's political economy. With low or even negative real interest rates, and with an oil industry that saw no end to the boom, why not borrow money to accelerate development? A recession in the North that meant less oil consumption, the dramatic rise in interest rates after the 1979 Volker shock, and plummeting oil prices in the 1980s all conspired to transform what seemed like a good idea into a full-blown debt crisis. As we can see from Table 3, Ecuador's total debt services as a percentage of its GPD remained between 2 and 3 percent between 1970 and 1977, then ballooned into the double digits throughout the 1980s, peaking at 17.3 percent during that decade. Table Four demonstrates that the country's external debt stocks as a percentage of its gross national income remained below 26% during 1971 to 1976, then almost doubled with the second military government (1976-1979). Things worsened considerably in the 1980s with this figure peaking at 135.67 percent in 1989.

Beyond the purely economic factors of the 1980 crisis--in the form of growing debt, escalating interest rates on the debt, and the decline of oil prices--another key factor appeared that catalyzed a fresh problematization of development. This was the earthquake of 1987 that ruptured the major oil pipeline that transports oil from the interior jungle region, over the Andes mountains, and then to the Pacific coast. The event indeed had an impact on economic components of the crisis. The rupture meant 25 miles of broken pipeline, the reduction of oil shipments for six months, and therefore Ecuador's inability to meet debt payments--this explains the peak in external debt stocks between 1987 and 1989 noted in Table Four and another peak in total debt services in 1088 noted in Table Five. The government announced the cancellation of $8.3 billion in foreign debt payments for 1987, and was reeling from a dramatic drop of oil prices in 1986 that cost Ecuador about $700 million. (15)

At least as important was the abrupt awareness, at first on the part of people who lived near the pipeline and oils well and eventually, over the next 25 years, on the part of the state, that oil production posed ecological problems of the utmost severity. It foreshadowed a class action lawsuit brought against Texaco in 1993 for the environmental and health problems the industry had caused in the country. (16) That lawsuit was a product of sustained community activism that appeared in the wake of the earthquake. Between 1988 and 1993 a series of localized letter-writing campaigns and public protests sparked the suit against Texaco in 1993.

What is crucial to emphasize here is that the earthquake of 1987 was the pivotal event, and the beginning of a brief prelude, that led to the protracted re-problematization of development in Ecuador. Now the issue became how to produce and transport oil in a manner that avoids environmental and human health catastrophes. While local community members and organizations were the first to notice the problem and to launch grass roots protests, the Ecuadorian government began to recognize and research the problem. A government study in 1989, the year CEPE evolved into Petroecuador, observed that spills from flow lines were dumping an estimated 20,000 gallons every two weeks, and another government study in 1992 recorded 30 major spills totaling 16.8 million gallons of crude oil. About 30 billion gallons of toxic wastes and crude oil are estimated to have been discharged into the Oriente. (17) A Modernist conception of development that featured 'man's ability to conquer mother nature' fell to the wayside as notions of sustainability, complexity and human security came to the fore.

The 1993 lawsuit has waxed, waned and transformed over the last two decades. The case was dismissed in the US in 1996, reinstated in 1998 by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, and dismissed again in 2000 by a US District Court on the grounds that the USA was not the correct venue for the trial, in August 2002, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Texaco must submit to Ecuadorian law and that the decision of the Ecuadorian court would be enforceable in the US. (18) One of the plaintiffs key lawyers, Steven Donzinget, wrote that "from 1964 to 1992 Texaco deliberately dumped billions of gallons of toxic waste into Amazon waterways, abandoned more than 900 unlined waste pits, burned millions of cubic meters of noxious gases, and spilled more than 17 million gallons of oil due to pipeline ruptures." Despite 60,000 soil and water contamination tests conducted in various sites, Chevron (formerly Texaco) indicates that it is not liable "because in 1995 it paid $40 million to 'clean' a portion of the well sties and waste pits in exchange for release from liability from Ecuador's government." (19)

Let us retreat a bit and examine the economic context in Ecuador during which the aforementioned 1995 decision was made. Civilian governments that appeared just after the military governments in 1979 resisted pressure to implement neoliberal reforms, despite the debt crisis. But neolibcral policies were implemented during 1984-1988, with the Social Christian Party of Febres Cordero. This era marked the beginning of a protracted period of economic and political crisis. Public spending as a percentage of its GDP fell from 20.5% in 1982 to 11 percent in 1992. (20) During the mid 1990s, banks used personal and corporate bank deposits for highly speculative mis-adventures that resulted in a major financial catastrophe at the end of the decade. The 1992-1996 government of Sixto Duran-Ballen has been widely described as corrupt, with a passive judiciary branch and a polarized and immobilized Congress--it was during these years that the Ecuadorian Government released Texaco-Chevron from liability for its toxic spills in the Oriente. Beginning with the overthrow of President Bucaram in 1996, no Ecuadorian President has finished office without being overthrown--the Correa government may very well change that trend. (21)

The fiscal crisis in Ecuador during 1998-2000 was chiefly brought on by corruption and speculation on the part of the country's major banks. But there were other important contributing factors. For example, 1998 floods from El Nino on Ecuador's coasts, where most of the nation's exports crops are located, cost the country about 14.5 percent of its G DP. Further, the economic crisis was exacerbated by a drop in oil prices from about $18 a barrel in 1996 to about $9 a barrel in 1998--oil constituted about 40 percent government revenues at the time. (22) The Asian financial crisis of 1997 spread to Russia and then to Brazil and Argentina during 1998-99, and this also had a negative effect on Ecuador's linances. Most importantly, remarkable speculation of investors' deposits by leading banks led to precipitous financial crash when their bets went sour. Between 1998 and 2000, Ecuador went through its worst crisis in a century. The country's GNP shrank 7.3 percent, foreign investment fell 34.7%, and imports declined by 38.4 percent. In 1998 there were 42 banks in the country, by the year 2000 there were only 26. Between August 1998 and December 1999, the Mahuad government spent 23 percent of the country's GNP to rescue the banking sector. Social spending fell 50 percent as a result, and the minimum wage fell 25 percent. (23) The economic collapse of the country, triggered by the mismanagement and corruption of leading government and economic elites, led to a coup in 2000 co-sponsored by the Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) and the military. While the country's history was punctuated by many coups, what was notable about this one was the alliance between the country's leading indigenous organization-which now presented a strong and highly organized voice nationally--and the country's military, which historically represented the interests of the country's majority poor population.

The New Millennium

The first decade of the new millennium was, in many ways, a turning point for Ecuadorian political and economic development, and for a more prominent though inconsistent emphasis upon ecological concerns within official problematizations of development. There are three trends worthy of consideration. The first concerns an economic rollercoaster, whereby the country managed to climb out of the enormous financial crisis of 1998-2000 only to enter another debt crisis in 2007-2008 whereby it forced its creditors to discount its debt. All this served as another reminder of the country's entrenched pattern of economic instability and vulnerability. To some extent, the 2007-8 crisis was cushioned by a global commodity boom that created a thirst for the country's oil and minerals, but these commodities themselves were vulnerable to the global bust that began in 2008. A second broad trend concerns the growing prominence of the Texaco case, in Ecuador and globally, over the decade. This was a result of strong local NGOs networking with global counterparts, and of academic assistance to these social forces in the form of empirical documentation of associated risks from petroleum contamination such as health concerns and ecocide. A third trend concerns the presidency of Rafael Correa, which has yielded mixed and even contradictory results with regard to ecological concerns in the extractive industry. For example, while the Correa government has demonized Texaco, contamination produced by other companies has largely escaped official government sanction. Let us develop these points.

Regarding wild fluctuations in the economy, Ecuador suffered a crisis in 2007-8 that was minor compared to the 1998-2000 catastrophe. In the latter debt crisis, a drop in commodity and especially oil prices in 2008 led the government to proclaim it could not meet its debt commitments. But the context here is important. President Correa, who got elected on a platform of center left populism, had increased social spending for the majority population, reducing the country's gini coefficient from 50.5 in 2006 to 47.9 in 2009. (24) The country's ratio of total debt to GDP decreased markedly from 118 in 1988, to 66 in 1998, 37.9 in 2007 and to 30.8 in 2008. (25) And even during this so- called debt crisis, real GDP growth rose from 2.5% in 2007 to 6.5% in 2008. (26) Perhaps a more accurate interpretation is that this was not a traditional debt crisis, but an assertion of power on the part of Ecuador in response to what it regarded as a punishing debt load at a time when the country was just beginning to witness an entrenchment of democracy, a reduction in socioeconomic inequity, and the benefits of petroleum production despite the price fluctuations of this volatile commodity.

What is important to underscore is that petroleum production had bankrolled President Correa's populist platform. It has represented the golden egg from which redistributive fruits can be drawn to cultivate and maintain support from the majority poor population--a model borrowed from Hugo Chavez. As Table One demonstrates, oil production rose nearly 25% between 2003 and 2004 and maintained that level throughout the decade. Given that over 40 percent of the country's national budget comes from oil, that jump is highly significant. The rise in production, as well as the generally escalating price of oil since 1998--despite price fluctuations from a high of almost $150 a barrel in 2008 to nearly half that at various points since then--accounts in wide measure for the country's growth in GDP per capita, as observed in Table Two. Indeed, GPD growth per capita rose more between 2001 and 2008 than during any previous period except the early days of production that coincided with the OPEC crisis from 1973-1979. Further, as Table Five indicates, gross national income per capita role more than tripled from $1,179 in the year 2000 to $3,725 in 2008.


The Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, an NGO based in the Oriente's Lago Agrio, formed in 1993 as a collective and local response to the ecocide they say has been caused by Texaco's various spills and waste pits noted earlier. The group's impact has been huge, as evidenced by its ability to bring a class action suit against Texaco-Chevron. The NGO's former President, Jose Fajardo, said that ecological disasters caused by Texaco contributed to "indigenous cultural destruction." He added that locals began noticing "increased levels of cancer and unusual illnesses," though no statistics were compiled in the early years of the group's existence. (27) Fajardo's brother, Pablo, is a respected lawyer who was instrumental in launching the aforementioned lawsuit. The two brothers, according to Jose Fajardo, endured a huge amount of "intimidation," including anonymous "death threats and kidnapping threats" aimed at them and their families. (28) Beyond their talents and those of other Frente members, the group's success has been built in large measure on its capacity to take advantage of globalization and internet connectivity to establish international links with global NGOs, with a leading Manhattan law firm that has come to its defense, as well as with rock star Sting and his wife. This has been depicted in the feature film 'Crude,' which portrays the group's struggle with Texaco as a David and Goliath epic, and which avoids important nuances to be discussed later. What is important to emphasize here is that global connections with sympathetic and powerful social forces are key, as they were, for example, in the 1990s for the Mexican rebel group, the Zapatistas or Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN). While constructing such connections sounds simple in a world of internet connectivity, social forces in the North are extraordinarily selective regarding the Southern groups with which they wish to connect and support. (29) The group continues in its attempt to expand global connections. Its president indicated it is still trying to "determine the magnitude of the problem, to figure out how to recuperate the environment, and what the cost for all this will be." (30) As we shall see later, the ecological problems go far beyond those caused by Texaco, and involve many other oil companies working in the region.

Beyond support from NGOs, lawyers and rock stars, the Frente and other groups in the Oriente have received considerable support from academics --particularly in the area of health and water testing. In terms of data collection and analysis regarding the effects on human health from oil-related ecocide, the seminal work by Miguel San Sebastian and colleagues is perhaps the most important. Beginning in 2002, his team began a series of published studies that examined the incidence of cancer in areas affected by oil spills and waste pits. Their work also examined the contest between "scientific" and "action-oriented" epidemiology, assorted local health problems likely emanating from the local petroleum industry, the politics surrounding the determination of a public health crisis, as well as the effects upon local pregnant women of oil- related contamination. (31) The work of the San Sebastian team has been important conceptually and empirically, and has empowered local social forces such as the Frente by providing them with the necessary hard data to make their case nationally and globally. (32)

The locals' case against Texaco remains mired in dramatic controversy. Chevron, which assumed the legal burden of the Texaco case after it acquired the company in 2001, responded to the publications of San Sebastian and his team by hiring and funding scientists to critically examine their work. One such study, based solely on mortality rates gleaned from limited government data, and which did not test for the actual presence of cancer in residents of the Oriente, challenged San Sebastian's findings. It concluded that "No statistically significant elevations in cancer rates were observed." (33) Further, the legal action initiated by locals in the Oriente was expected by the Frente and other seasoned observers in mid-summer of 2009 to conclude with a conviction of Texaco in the autumn of that year. (34)

Beginning in August 2009, however, a series of bizarre events unfolded that seemed fitting of a cartoonish TV soap opera. In that month, Chevron, on its website, revealed clandestine video footage, apparently recorded by tiny cameras and microphones hidden in a pen--and taken by a duo including an ex-felon and narcotrafficker as well as by a long-time employee of Chevron--indicating that the Ecuadorian Judge in Lago Agrio who presided over the case had already decided to rule against Chevron even before the case had officially closed. (35) Those supporting the Frente cried fraud and suggested the video had been doctored. In April 2010, Chevron further charged that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs had "submitted fraudulent reports" to the Ecuadorian court, since a US biologist hired by the plaintiffs never concluded that the oil pits described earlier had posed a human risk or a risk to the environment, and that his signature had been forged on documents suggesting otherwise. (36) All this culminated with Chevron's decision to take the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague on 23 September 2009. The company's intent in seeking international arbitration for a third time was to demonstrate that it cannot get a fair ruling in Ecuadorian courts, and to insist that Ecuador and Petroecuador pay part of the $27 billion in reparation that Ecuador is seeking from Chevron. While legal proceedings at the Hague drag on, the court case in Ecuador has continued, albeit with a new judge not tarnished by the clandestine video-tape scandal noted above. In September the new judge requested that the plaintiffs re-assess the damages claimed before he reached his expected verdict in early 2011. The result was that the plaintiffs increased their estimates of damages more than 300 percent from the initial $27 billion to between $90 and $113 billion. There is no end in sight to the case as of this writing.

The Texaco case is highly significant for so many reasons. Yet the almost uni-focus on the Texaco case on the part of the Correa government, and depicted through a popular film such as Crude, provides a very flat portrayal of the relation between development and sustainability in the Ecuadorian case. It masks important nuances, contradictions, and generally backward perspectives that stand in the way of establishing a solid link between conceptions of development and sustainability. There are a number of points in this regard. First, Texaco is certainly not alone as a major polluter of the Oriente. The state oil company Petroecuador may be the region's largest polluter, and there appear to be are many others that contribute to the severe contamination of the region. Second, President Correa's demonization of Texaco ignores not only the contamination emanating from other corporations, but his policies have been a big part of regional problems. These include the criminalization of what many regard as legitimate forms of social protest, Correa's portrayal of environmentalists critical of his policies as 'infantile," his government's calculated aloofness to environmental crises in the Oriente due to its lack of electoral power, as well as the Correa government's apparent penchant to pump oil and extract minerals regardless of environmental impact in order to fund populist social programs. Let us develop these points.

First, there is no question as to Texaco's contamination of the Oriente. Even Texaco admits this. As we observed, it paid $40 million in 1995 to clean a portion of its waste pits and well sites, which it claims exonerates it from any further responsibility due to a deal it made in that year with the Ecuadorian government (the $40 million figure compares with the $27-$113 billion plaintiffs seek in their ongoing suit against Texaco). The debate concerns to what extent Texaco polluted the region, the extent to which its partnership with Petroecuador in the region signifies that Petroecuador is responsible for much of the pollution, and also involves what Texaco claims is the lack of proof linking obvious contamination to problems associated with human health and ecocide. The strategy of the Frente, which launched the suit against Texaco, appears to target that company first, and then to gather evidence regarding the relation of other corporations to contamination and threats to human health and the environment. It is important to stress that very little empirical evidence exists with regard to contamination by other corporations in the region, though a simple visual inspection of the area suggests vast and horrific pollution.


Our team, working with the Frente, launched a preliminary study of water contamination, health problems and social justice in Pacayacu--about an hour from Lago Agrio in the Oriente, where Petroecuador is present. (37) The study was a pilot which aims to achieve further funding for a large and conclusive study that tests for water contamination in drinking wells near waste pits, determines health problems in the region that may be linked to contamination, and that examines threats to political human rights in the region. Above all, the project focuses on the promotion of feasible avenues for local capacity building vis-a-vis sustainable development. Regarding water testing, our sample of just nine sites of drinking water from wells near waste pits observed that "total alphatic (linear) hydrocarbons were found at considerable higher concentrations with 4 out of 9 samples higher than one mg/L." This suggests that considerable contamination of water could be present in the general area--though extensive testing of the region would be necessary before reliable conclusions can be reached. (38) Out of 19 other samples, the level of anthracene exceeded the "safe guidelines for the protection of aquatic life in all samples, where it was usually 3 times the safe levels" (based on Canadian standards noted below). This suggests a potential threat not only to many in the region who cultivate fish in small ponds, but to the waterways that are tributaries to the Amazon. Further, 3 of 9 water samples detected higher than acceptable levels of pyrene for aquatic life, according to levels established by the Canadian Council of the Ministers of the Environment (CCME). (39) Clearly. a comprehensive study of water contamination is needed regarding its affects on human health and the environment.

Of the limited number of tests we conducted, we found that in the single case where a household obtained its drinking water from a rainwater collection system located on the roof, rather than obtaining drinking water from a well, no unsafe levels of PAH contamination were found and no other toxic compounds we tested for exceeded Canadian guidelines. (40) Indeed, the family with a rainwater system was the only one among 99 surveys conducted of individuals in four communities within Pacayacu that did not report health complaints that were common in other surveys. What was so striking is that all other individuals surveyed (96 people) reported frequent headaches, frequent stomach aches and digestive problems, skin rashes after showering, and more than two-thirds reported frequent respiratory problems and sore throats (from what they observed was air pollution from local petroleum installations). (41) First, it must be emphasized that while the commonality of illnesses was striking, no clear scientific link can be drawn from our study between those ailments and contamination from petroleum. For example, parasites in water can cause stomach problems, chemicals related to fertilizers can cause skin rashes, and so on. Two doctors at the only local community health clinic indicated that they noticed what seemed to be a prevalence of gastro-intestinal diseases and fevers among community members, but it was unclear to them whether this was a result of parasites or petroleum-related contamination. They also observed what they viewed as a relatively high and increasing rate of cancers in the community, but noted there were no statistics to support this and the causes of the disease are unclear. (42)

These very preliminary tests and observations suggest at least three things: 1) an extensive scientific study is needed, and must be very carefully developed methodologically, to determine the effects, if any, of petroleum contamination on human health and the environmental; 2) statistics need to be compiled carefully regarding specific health problems in the community and how these compare to national averages, the location of residents with such illnesses in relation to petroleum waste pits or spills, the number of years residents have lived in the community, etc; and 3) In the short term, rain-based water systems--despite obvious air pollution--may be a safer bet than ground- based well systems for residents living near waste pits and spill sites.

Beyond physical malaise, there are clear social problems in Pacayacu in relation to the petroleum industry. First, many women indicated that their husbands are in the petroleum industry, and must often work away from the community for weeks at a time. This, they told us, tended to leave the children without a strong father figure, and sometimes led to marriage break-ups due a protracted period of geographical separation. Also, when we approached the communities, it seemed that all the residents wanted their water tested for contaminants--this is just what one would expect, people are naturally concerned about their water quality. But that initial desire for water testing sometimes became troublesome for families with members who work in the oil industry--they felt that they might be vulnerable if oil corporations perceived their involvement in such a study to be antithetical to corporate interests, thereby jeopardizing their precious jobs.

Finally, it was clear during our visit that Texaco is by no means the only polluter of the Oriente. As was noted, Petroecuador dominates the Pacayacu region where we conducted our pilot project, and the series of waste pits and obvious contamination in the region was visually indistinguishable from a 'toxi-tour' I took in March 2008 with the Frente of areas near Shushufindi where Texaco had polluted. During our pilot project in June-July 2009, Venezuela's PDVSA was responsible for a major leak of pollutants that lasted for weeks and which flowed into local waterways. Further, during an interview with farmers who lived next door to production site operated by the Chinese oil company Andes Petroleum, they indicated that their animals have been dying due to contamination by the company of the farm's water supply--though the company denied any such responsibility. (43) Clearly, the central problem is the logic of petroleum extraction in the region, and not the operation of any single company. Whether they are US based TNCs, or those from socialist countries such as China or Venezuela, or even the Ecuadorian state oil company, they extract oil in the Amazon in a manner that would never be permitted by the environmental standards of the development North. Many residents felt themselves to be victims of the politics of oil, a game dominated by a series of giant oil corporations and by a populist government thirsty for oil proceeds.


In the national context, the Amazon Basin of Ecuador has a population of about half a million, or just $ percent of the country's total. It is relatively unimportant in national political contests. This means that federal politicians and the President can turn a blind eye to the interests of locals. With about 40 percent of its national budget flowing from oil revenues, and with President Correa politically dependent on spewing social programs commensurate with his populist agenda in order to generate needed popular support, the political interests of those in the Oriente have been forsaken. In other words, the President and national government can ignore the human security threats posed to those in the Oriente, and instead seem to be dedicated to pumping out as much oil as possible within limits set by the country's OPEC membership. The exception seems to be President Correa's support for the case against Texaco, since billions in reparations are at stake. But the President has been deafeningly silent on contamination generated by Petroecuador and other corporations in the region.

Further, President Correa had assumed ambiguous positions with regard to the unfolding of an innovative project to generate global funds in order not to drill fur oil in Yasuni National Park. The novel idea, devised and supported by local academics and NGOs, is to obtain global funds in the amount that would roughly equal the money generated by oil production in order to thwart petroleum exploitation in this national park and indigenous reserve. But some in Ecuador noticed what they call a 'double discourse' on the part of the President, whereby he has paid lip service in support the project, while simultaneously approving preliminary work that would permit oil exploration to proceed quickly should the project to obtain global funding fail against the backdrop of the international economic crisis. (44) As it turned out, the United Nations Development Program in August 2010 provided $3.6 billion dollars to Ecuador's government in an agreement to halt oil drilling in the Yasuni National Park for 10 years. Petroleum in the Park is estimated to represent about 20 percent of the country's reserves and could be worth more than $70 billion at current prices.

The President has vehemently attacked critics of his approach to the environmental aspects of the extractive industry. After a bitter strike in the town of Dayuma in Ecuador's Oriente on the part of employees of Petroecuador during November and December of 2007, the Correa government arrested 23 workers for alleged terrorism. The government indicated that Petroecuador had lost $84 million in work stoppages between 2002 and 2007, and the events of late 2007 were the last straw. Petroleum installations were militarized in early 2008 at a cost at the time of $10,000 US annually. (45) The President indicated that some workers who participated in the Dayuma work stoppages may have been linked to Colombia's Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) rebel group, thereby equating them with terrorists. (46) By early 2008, work stoppages in the oil industry that paralyzed production or which inhibited petroleum transportation were declared illegal by the Correa government. This essentially terminated the Oriente's only means to capture the undivided attention of the national government, given that their electoral power is minimal. (47) Under the Ecuadorian Constitution, as apparent in 2008, article 326 number 14 recognizes the right to strike, but number 15 goes on to prohibit a 'paralyzation' of work in all of the public sector, including the oil sector--a move that has effectively "criminalized political struggle and protest" among labor groups and equates these actions with "sabotage and terror." (48) Related to this theme, the Ecuadorian Government in December 2009 temporarily cancelled the radio broadcasting license for the Shuar Indians, who had used broadcasts to protest against planned oil and mining activities in the province of Morona Santiago. (49) President Correa has portrayed those who opposed his policies in other areas of the extractive sector, in this case the mining industry, as "small groups of indigenous," "ecological fundamentalists," and "infantile leftism and ecologicalism." (50)


Ecuador has passed through various conceptual schemes of development over the last century. What has remained constant has been a focus upon the primary sector as the centerpiece of the economy. Cocao underpinned economic production from 1860 to 1920, during a world order that witnessed the decline of British imperial power. At the end of that era, sporadic and largely unsuccessful oil exploration commenced in Ecuador in the wake of Ford's invention of the automobile and the escalating northern industrial dependence on petroleum. An era of unprecedented American dominance over Latin America marked the aftermath of the Second World War, though it was contested by the Soviet Union whose socialist ideology appeared to ring truer in the Third World amidst the vast social and economic inequities apparent there. It was in this context, in 1949, that US President Truman coined the concept of development--which essentially meant the quest toward achieving a higher standard of living within a pro-capitalist economic order that was loyal to the strategic interests of the United States. This was a binary world where Washington pitted its brand of 'good' democratic capitalism against 'evil' Soviet communism and totalitarianism. Within a quintessentially Modernist framework, objective and scientific 'knowers' in the capitalist north imposed a model of development and linear progress upon subjects in the South who were conceptually viewed as ignorant and passive. Development, then, was portrayed as a continuum whereby southern regions such as Latin America sat at the unfortunate end, while US nirvana occupied the other extreme.

As observed earlier, the absolutism of that model showed its first serious cracks in the late 1960s and into the 1970s, as US hegemony faced its first challenges in the world order. It was during this period that Ecuador experienced its initial oil boom. The country no longer viewed itself as a passive agent of development and instead attempted to assert itself during the late 1970s vis-a-vis northern TNCs. While certain aspects of Modernity were challenged in the realm of conceptualizations of development--such as the temporary assertion of agency by the South--the broad framework of Modernity remained dominant. This was still an era of 'man's conquest of mother nature' in the contest to reap economic benefits. As we observed with respect to the Ecuadorian case, ecological considerations and issues of sustainability were nowhere to be found in the oil patch during the heady days of the OPEC boom.

The assertion of power vis-a-vis the North in Latin America during the 1970s, not seen again until three decades later within the context of the Chavez phenomenon, witnessed an abrupt and painful backslide during the 1980s in the context of the debt crisis. During an era when most Latin American states such as Ecuador were viewed by the North as irresponsible and spendthrift debtors--a title the North itself would have to wear in the new millennium--power was imposed by the North over the South through neoliberal debt restructuring schemes that attempted to shape Latin American economies to US interests. Once again, Latin America became a passive subject of Northern models of development. In the Ecuadorian case, the oil boom of the 1970s opened the gateway to vast Northern loans, and the subsequent debt crisis of the 1980s. Ecuador's assertion of power over the North faded, as did its hope of achieving steady macro-economic growth and development.

While the 1990s brought more economic and political setbacks for Ecuador--including the worst economic collapse in its history, and global prices for oil hovered at a low of about $9 a barrel at the end of that decade--important shifts were underway that would dramatically change conceptions of development for the country. Within Ecuador, residents of the Oriente began to take account of the ill effects on their health and on the environment emanating from the petroleum sector. The establishment of the Frente, the first major NGO in the region to represent local interests in this regard, was a clear milestone toward the incorporation of ecological concerns and sustainability within frameworks of development. This was an organic and local response to an obvious problem, and was not influenced by global intellectual conceptions of development.

However, it happened to coincide with a vast theoretical shift among intellectuals that was influenced by Foucauldian thought, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the full-fledged emergence of globalization. While Foucault's most influential theoretical works were authored in the late 1960s and 1970s, such as his seminal The Order of Things which was first published in 1966, (51) his ideas concerning discontinuous systems of thought in relation to power structures did not assume major traction in the academic community until the 1990s and into the new millennium. He attempted to show that Modernity, as a vast knowledge structure, would dissipate as quickly as it had emerged at the end of the 18th century. Like a wave that would erase writing on a sandy beach, to use his analogy, the knowledge-power structures of Modernity would give way to a new order of knowing the world. On the outs were binary thought, ideas of linear progress, positivist claims to objectivity for what were subjective opinions, and other popular notions such as man's ability to dominate nature. Latin American intellectuals, such as the Colombian Arturo Escobar and the Mexican Gustavo Esteva, were among the vanguard of Southern thinkers to incorporate Foucauldian thought into the realm of development. As such, Escobar and Esteva were more like gifted translators than original authors.

Escobar observed in 1992 that "development has not happened," and that it was time for the South "to shake off the meanings imposed on them by the Development discourse," which he compared to the pernicious power of representation as depicted in Edward Said's brilliant Orientalism. (52) Instead, Escobar argued that the South should assume faith in its own knowledge, and therefore assert its own power, to redefine what has been called 'development.' Among other things, this meant the celebration of local knowledge and culture, a recognition of "the failure of Western science" for promoting southern culture and community, the celebration of identity politics and of grass roots democratic empowerment, as well as a 'bottom up' conception of power. (53) He was critical both of the failure of capitalism and of the insistence by Marxists to "conceive of their struggle in purely economic terms or only in terms of economic class." (54) Further, Gustavo Esteva, in reference to the environmental degradation of Mexico and other ill effects of the country's developmental scheme, observed that 'you must be either numb or very rich if you fail to notice that 'development' stinks." (55)

While the so-called 'post-development' approach advocated by intellectuals such as Escobar and Esteva has drawn considerable criticism, (56) many of their ideas, and of the post-modern approach more generally, have found their way into mainstream thought regarding development during the new millennium. This is particularly apparent with regard to the concept of human security, which is a guiding concept in the United Nations regarding development. For example, it emphasizes the relation between social peace and development. (57) Essentially, human security marries the concepts of development, security, human rights and ecological concerns--and views them in a complex and inseparable relationship. (58) It celebrates the importance of capacity building, social inclusion and empowering the South in any conceptions of security and development. (59) Indeed, it is hard in 2010 to find any serious model of development that does not involve southern agency and input with regard to developmental schemes. The Final Report of the United Nations Commission on Human Security also underscores the necessity of inter-disciplinary approaches to development, rather than simply an economic focus. It emphasizes the Foucauldian concept of 'biopolitics' by noting that the living social body underpins actually existing conceptions of security and development.

What is interesting about the Ecuadorian case, especially with regard to conceptions of development in relation to the petroleum sector, is that it entails a strange admixture of all three dominant approaches to politics and development in Latin America--the neoliberal model, the Chavista left-populist approach, as well as elements of 'post-development.' And while sustainability and ecological concerns have slowly been weaved into conceptions of development, the process is far from complete. Elements of neoliberalism are alive and well in Ecuador, despite portrayals of President Correa as a staunch leftist in the mold of Hugo Chavez. Transnational corporations clearly dominate the oil fields of the Oriente. The state oil corporation, unlike Venezuela's powerful PDVSA, does not have the knowledge or capital to take command of the oil fields, and therefore remains at the mercy of TNCs to a far greater degree than its Venezuelan counterpart. As we saw with regard to oil spills and waste pits, the central problem in the Oriente is the general logic of petroleum extraction there. TNCs from socialist countries such as China and Venezuela behave in exactly the same ecologically destructive manner as their ultra-capitalist counterparts. Further, the treatment of labor organizations in Ecuador's petroleum sector--particularly their legal prevention from mass strikes, the government's interpretation of these as terrorist activities and sabotage, and what some have called the general criminalization of what should be legitimate protest--resemble the treatment of other labor organizations under a staunchly rightist government.

At the same time, the Ecuadorian case displays features associated with a left-leaning populism a la Hugo Chavez. President Correa's populism is the cement that he hopes can promote political stability and continuity in a country that hosted a revolving door of ten presidents in little more than the decade that preceded him. Correa relies on the distribution of social programs to generate a level of popular support that he hopes can yield him the staying power that has proven so illusive in Ecuadorian politics. With nearly 40 percent of the national budget dependent on petroleum revenue, Correa seems to want oil extracted faster and in greater quantities than ever. He has shown little regard for ecological concerns and sustainability, except in isolated cases such as the Texaco fiasco that he hopes will gilt him a nationalist political lift. Correa's is not a green government, it is a populist one. The tyranny of Ecuador's majority means that much of the country's population will benefit from social programs fueled by the ecological rape and pillage of the Oriente.

Despite these formidable obstacles, small-scale progress has indeed been achieved with regard to the inclusion of ecological concerns and sustainability with regard to conceptions of development vis-a-vis the petroleum and other extractive industries. It is here that the post-modern framework has been helpful, with its focus on local agency and empowerment, its emphasis on identity politics in the form of indigenous actors and local culture, and its celebration of complexity in terms of the inter-relation between security, environment, human rights and (60) development. The key in the Ecuadorian case has been local NGO development that has succeed in establishing a network of global support from northern social forces such as global environmental organizations, international lawyers, hoards of academics, and even the likes of a rock star. Globalization is a two edged sword, and provides a glimmer of hope for local social forces that form global networks to promote social inclusion, sustainability and ecological concerns within conceptions of development. In sharp contrast to the discontinuous jumps celebrated by the post-modern approach, any notion of positive change in the Ecuadorian case suggests painfully slow Modernist incrementalism.


(1.) For a good overview of the economic history of Ecuador, see Fander Falconi-Benitez, "Integrated Assessment of the Recent Economic History of Ecuador," Population and Environment, vol. 22, Number 3, January 2001, pp. 257-279.

(2.) Banco Central del Ecuador, La Actividad Petrolera en el Ecuador en la Decada de los 80 (Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador, 2000), pp. 1-3.

(3.) Liisa North, "Militares y Estado en Ecuador," Iconos, #26, 2006, pp 86-88.

(4.) "Ecuador, Oil Up for Grabs," NACLA's Latin America and Empire Report, November 1975, p. 31.

(5.) Gustavo Esteva, "Regenerating People's Space," Alternatives, vol. 12, #198, 1987, p. 143.

(6.) Liisa North, "Implementacion de la politica economica y la estructura de poder politica en el Ecuador," in Luis Lefeber, ed., Economia Politica del Ecuador (Quito: Flacso and Cerlac, 1985).

(7.) John Martz, Politics and Petroleum in Ecuador (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1987), p 55.

(8.) Banco Central del Ecuador, La Actividad Petrolera en el Ecuador en la Decada de los 80, p. 4.

(9.) Martz, Politics and Petroleum m Ecuador, pp. 57-59.

(10.) This is an excerpt from the document, Republica del Ecuador, Filosofia y plan de accion del gobierno revolucionario y nacionalista del Ecuador: lineamientos generales, published in 1972. This is taken from a larger quote in Martz, p.97

(11.) Banco Central de Ecuador, La Actividad Petrolera en el Ecuador en la Decada de los 80, pp. 4-6.

(12.) For an excellent and in-depth discussion of this, see John Martz, op. cit., Chapters Five and Six.

(13.) Rene Vargas Pazzos, "PetroLeo, desarrollo y seguridad,'" from Institute de Investigaciones Economicos, Politica petrolera ecuatoriana, 1972-1976 (Quito: Universidad Central, 1976), p. 142.

(14.) Banco Central de Ecuador, La Actividad Petrolera en el Ecuador en la Decada de los 80, p. 5.

(15.) John Martz, "Instability in Ecuador," Current History, vol. 87, #525, January 1988, pp 18-20.

(16.) Suzana Sawyer, "Fictions of Sovereignty," Journal of Latin American Anthropology, vol. 41, 2001, p. 164.

(17.) A. Hurtig and M. San Sebastian, "Incidence of Childhood Leukemia and Oil Exploration in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador," International Journal of Environmental Occupational Health, vol. 10, #3, July 2004, pp 245-46.

(18.) Suzana Sawyer, "Disabling Corporate Sovereignty in a Transnational Lawsuit," Political and Legal Anthropology Review, vol. 29, #1, pp 27-28.

(19.) Steven Donzinger, "The Chevron Way," Forbes Magazine, 17 September 2009, pp. 5-6.

(20.) Liisa North, "Militarers y Estado en Ecuador," Iconos, Quito, #26, 2006, p 93.

(21.) Carlos Eduardo Paladines Camacho, Masters Thesis, Naval Post Graduate School, "Civil Military Operations in Ecuador," March 2003, pp. 35-52.

(22.) Carlos Larrea, "Neoliberal Policies and Social Development in Latin America: the Case of Ecuador," paper presented to the 2006 Congress of Social Sciences and Humanities, Cerlac, York University, Tononto, 2 Jun 2006, p. 8.

(23.) Jose Antonio Lucero, "Crisis and Contention in Ecuador," Journal of Democracy, vol. 12, #2, April 2001, pp. 60-62.

(24.) CIA World Factbook, 'Ecuador," publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ec.html, viewed 25 May 2010.

(25.) Statistics from World Bank, 'Ecuador at a Glance,' http://docs. DMcfRXFMJ:devdata.worl rvice+as+percentage+of+gdp&hl=en&gl=ve&pid=bl&srcid=ADG EESi4ReyEh3 ffGQaOAmSh5aQH5uXwXS I srr2q-ut2mzmTODj HqPDJvd0ZHabnLVfOsGasniMH_LtJV97hhuGPYb m_eHQmVwrbqJU9UtLAeeK FPwy2r54rGnebd41Act I KO216z2Qj &sig=AHIEtbSudfrxa0F3inEIQzy7cO_XlgArsg, viewed 25 May 2010.

(26.) Statistics from CIA World Factbook, see note 25.

(27.) Interview by author, Jose Fajardo, Presidente, Frente de Defensa de la Amazonia, 5 March 2008.

(28.) Ibid.

(29.) James Rochlin, Social Forces and the Revolution in Military Affairs: the Cases of Colombia and Mexico (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

(30.) Interview by author, Jose Fajardo.

(31.) See, for example: A Hurtig and Miguel San Sebastian, "Geographical Differences in Cancer Incidence in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador in Relation to Residence Near Oil Fields," International Journal of Epidemiology, 2002, vol. 31, pp. 1021-27; A Hurtig and Miguel San Sebastian, "Incidence of Childhood Leukemia and Oil Exploration in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador," International Journal of Environmental Occupational Health, vol 10, #3, July 2004, pp 245-50; A. Hurtig and Miguel San Sebastian, "Epidemiology vs epidemiology: the case of oil exploitation in the Amazon basis of Ecuador," International Journal of Epidemiology, pp 1170-72, August 2005; Miguel San Sebastian and A Hurtig, "Oil exploration in the Amazon basis of Ecuador: a public health emergency," Panamerican Journal of Public Health, vol 15, #3, 2004, pp. 205211; Miguel San Sebastian and A Hurtig, "Cancer among Indigenous in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador, 1985-2000," Pan American Journal of Public Health, vol 16, #5, 2004, p. 328-333; M San Sebastian and A K Hurtig, "Oil development and health in the Amazon basin of Ecuador: the popular epidemiology process," Social Science and Medicine, vol 60, 2005, pp 799-807; Miguel San Sebastian, Ben Armstrong, Carolyn Stephens, "Outcomes of Pregnancy among Women Living in the proximity of oil fields in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador," International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health, vol 8, #4, Oct. 202, 312-19.

(32.) Interview, Jose Fajardo.

(33.) M. Kelsh, L. Morimoto, and E. Lau, "Cancer mortality and oil production in the Amazonian Region of Ecuador, 1990-2005," International Archives of Occupational Environmental Health. vol 82, 2009, p. 389.

(34.) Interview by author with Ermel Gabriel Chavez Parra, Presidente, Frente de la Defensa de la Amazonia, 10 July 2010.

(35.) See Chevron's website on the case, ecuador/.

(36.) See, for example, a 7 April 2010 report by the Environment News Service,, viewed 1 June 2010.

(37.) Our team consisted of water testing engineers, medical specialists, an information management specialist, and political scientists. The study was conducted in June and July of 2009, and was done in cooperation with the Frente de la Defensa de la Amazonia.

(38.) "Preliminary Determination of Contaminants in Water Collected from the Petroleum Production are of Lago Agrio (Pacayacu) in Ecuador," report prepared by Dr Ken Hall and Patricio Velasquez-Lopez, and funded by a UBC Martha Piper Grant, Dr James Rochlin, Principal Investigator, May 2009.

(39.) Ibid.

(40.) We tested for naphthalene, 2-methylnaphthalene, 1-methylnaphthalene, anenaphthylene, acenaphthene, flourene, anthracene, phenanthrene, fluoranthene, pyrene, chysene, benz(a)nthracence, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(b)flouranthene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, indeno(l,2,3-cd)pyrene, dibenz(a,h)anthracene, benzo(ghi)perylene.

(41.) We conducted four community-based meetings in the Pacayacu area on July 6 and 7, 2009; and also conducted health surveys on homes where we tested drinking water from July 8 to July 11 2009. We asked: the age of the persons, their gender, the type of illness (if any) they experienced frequently, how many years they resided in the community, and the proximity of their drinking water well to waste pits.

(42.) Interview by author and by Dr Claire Budgen, Professor Emeritus, Nursing, University of British Columbia, with Dr. Luis Leon and Dr. Walter Alava, Pacayacu, Ecuador, 9 July 2009.

(43.) Interview by author, names of peasants withheld by request, March 8 2008.

(44.) Interview by author: Diego Cano, Presidente de la Fetrapec responsable de la Coordinador Nacional de Sindicatos Publicos del Ecuador, Quito, 4 June 2010.

(45.) El Comercio, 21 December 2007.

(46.) El Comercio, 14 December 2007.

(47.) Interview, Jose Fajardo, 5 March 2008.

(48.) Interview, Diego Cano, 6 June 2010.

(49.) After a bitter struggle by the Shuar Indians, the station was re-opened after being shut down in January 2010.

(50.) As quoted in El Comercio, 19 January 2009.

(51.) Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences.

(52.) Arturo Escobar, "Reflections on 'Development,'" Futures, vol. 24, June 1992, pp. 412-413.

(53.) Ibid., p. 422, p. 420, and p. 430.

(54.) Ibid., p. 422.

(55.) Gustavo Esteva, "Regenerating People's Space," Alternatives, vol. 12, #198, 1987, p. 135.

(56.) See, for example: Jan Nederveen Pieterse, "My Paradigm or Yours? Alternative Development, Post-Development, Reflexive Development," Development and Change, vol. 29, 1998, pp. 343-373; Stuart Corbridge, "Beneath the Pavement Only Soil: the Poverty of Post Development," Journal of Developmental Studies, vol. 34, #6, 1998, pp. 138-148; Ray Kiley, "The Last Refuge of the Noble Savage? Critical Assessment of Post-Development Theory," European Journal of Development Research, vol. 11, # 1, June 1999, pp. 30-55; Meera Nanda, "Who Needs Post-Development?" Journal of Development Studies, vol. 15, # 1, 1999, pp. 5-31; Andrew McGregor, "Development, Foreign Aid and Post Development in Timor-Leste," Third World Quarterly, vol28, #1, 2007, pp. 155-170; and Chizu Sato, "Subjectivity, Enjoyment, and Development," Rethinking Marxism, vol. 18, #2, April 2006, pp. 273-288.

(57.) United Nations, Final Report of the Mission on Human Security, May 2003,, p. 2.

(58.) United Nations, p. 17, p. 96, p. 97, p. 104, p. 15.

(59.) United Nations, p. 5, p. 2.

By James Rochlin * * James Rochlin is Professor of Political Science at University of British Columbia Okanagan. His most recent book is Social Forces and the Revolution in Military Affairs: The Cases of Colombia and Mexico: he is also the author of Vanguard Revolutionaries in Latin America. Redeeming Mexican Security Under Nafta, and Discovering the Americas. Journal of Third World Studies, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2
Table One
Ecuador's Average Daily Oil Production (thousands of barrels)


Source: OPEC, Annual Statistical Bulletin 2008, Vienna, 2009

Table Two
Ecuador's GDP Per Capita, Annual Growth

1966--neg. 3.03
1968--neg. 68
1977--neg. .57
1982--neg. 3.23
1983--neg. 5.10
1987--neg. 4.55
1989--neg. 1.38
1992--neg. .68
1993--neg. 1.79
1995--neg. .13
1999--neg. 7.63
2000--neg. 1.41

Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators Online

Table Three
Ecuador's Total Debt Services as Percentage of GDP


Source: World Bank, World Development Indicators, various years

Table Four
External Debt Stocks as Percentage of Gross National Income

Source: World Bank, Global Development Finance, various years

Table Five
Gross National Income Per Capita, 2008 Prices US


Source: United Nations, and World Bank, World Development Indicators,
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Author:Rochlin, James
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:3ECUD
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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