Ecuador’s president urges Brad Pitt to scrap Amazon oil spill movie

May 17, 2015 by


Socialist leader Rafael Correa concerned film will be based on a book he alleges covered up actions of oil giant Chevron
Rafael Correa
Brad’s not fair … Rafael Correa says film about Ecuador’s war with US oil firms is based on a biased account. Photograph: RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images


The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has asked Brad Pitt to abandon plans for a new film chronicling US oil giants’ victory in the face of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit for polluting the Amazon.

In an unprecedented move, the country’s socialist leader launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #braddotherightthing aimed at convincing the Oscar-winning producer and actor to walk away from the proposed movie.

Pitt’s film is expected to be partly based on the book Law of the Jungle, by US journalist Paul Barrett, which details how American oil firm Texaco (now owned by Chevron) overcame an Ecuadorian court order that it should pay $9bn (£5.7bn) in damages for pollution of forest areas populated by indigenous peoples between 1964 and 1992. Chevron obtained a ruling in March 2014 from New York judge Lewis A Kaplan which blocked US courts from being used to collect the damages. Kaplan accused lawyers for the indigenous peoples of obtaining the earlier court judgment “by corrupt means”, arguing they submitted false evidence and arranged to write the multibillion-dollar judgment themselves by promising $500,000 to a local justice.

However, Correa alleged on Ecuadorian television that Barrett’s book was sponsored by Chevron itself as part of an international campaign to “cover up the truth” and said any film based on it would be questionable.

He said: “Now they’ve brought out a book, Law of the Jungle, all paid for by Chevron, in which we look like savages in a country without any separation of powers. If he has any doubts, we invite him to come to Ecuador and scoop up with his hands the oil which still lies in pools 30 years later and which was left by that corrupt oil company Chevron-Texaco, continuing to pollute our forest. Given the clarity of the facts, anybody who signs up to or collaborates with Chevron is an accomplice to that company’s corruption.”

Chevron, which was named as America’s third-largest firm by USA Today in 2013, told Reuters it had no links to the book or film project, while Barrett labelled the suggestion that he was sponsored by the oil firm “entirely untrue”, “appalling” and “defamatory”.

The Justice for Ecuador organisation, which campaigns on behalf of indigenous communities allegedly affected by US oil pollution, has launched a petition on the website calling on Pitt to abandon his plans for a film. It reads: “A movie based on this book will support the strategy of Chevron-Texaco to evade its responsibility for the devastation it has caused in Ecuador and set a precedent for this kind of lack of responsibility for corporations globally.”

Law of the Jungle is described on its cover as “the $19bn legal battle over oil in the rainforest and the lawyer who’d stop at nothing to win”. The book’s blurb suggests it focuses on Steven Donziger, the campaigning US lawyer who initially won the case at Ecuador’s highest court, rather than the pollution itself and its consequences. Donziger is described as a “self-styled” social activist and a “larger-than-life, loud-mouthed showman, who “cajoled and coerced Ecuadorian judges”.

Chevron further argues that a 1998 agreement Texaco signed with Ecuador after a $40m cleanup absolves it of liability. It has claimed Ecuador’s state-run oil company is responsible for much of the pollution in the oil patch, which it says Texaco left more than two decades ago.

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