iOS app Android app

Paul Paz y Miño
GET UPDATES FROM Paul Paz y Miño
 
Paul Paz y Miño, M.A. International Affairs, The George Washington University. Since 2007, Paul has been the Managing Director at Amazon Watch in San Francisco. In addition, Paul has spent the last 14 years as Amnesty International USA’s Colombia Country Specialist and was the Guatemala/Chiapas Program Director at the Seva Foundation for seven years. Paul has lived in Chiapas, Mexico, and Quito, Ecuador, promoting human rights and community development and working directly with indigenous communities. Paul is also an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and until recently served on the board of Peace Brigades International USA.

Entries by Paul Paz y Miño

'Legal Tender' -- Donny Rico on How Chevron's Legal Thuggery Really Works

(1) Comments | Posted June 25, 2014 | 8:41 AM

Reposted from the Eye on the Amazon

At long last we bring you Episode #3 in The Adventures of Donny Rico, a clever deep dive into the methods used by Chevron in its desperate and unethical campaign to turn the tables on the very victims it poisoned in Ecuador's rainforest. [Watch Episodes #1 and #2 here and here.]

Take it from Donny: it's no secret that Chevron has spent millions upon millions of dollars in an abusive "scorched earth" legal strategy to attack not only the villagers and their representatives who have held the company accountable in Ecuador, but virtually anyone who supports them. This is part of a decades-long legal strategy to delay paying for a clean-up, to deny the facts and simply to try to crush the opposition which has been gaining the upper hand yet again.

As a recent Huffington Post article stated in relation to Chevron's abuse of our civil justice system to evade its obligations in Ecuador: "Chevron has put an unprecedented amount of resources into its campaign against the Ecuadorian villagers, hiring more than 60 law firms and 2,000 legal professionals to wage a war of attrition, wearing the plaintiffs down through countersuits and flooding them with a constant barrage of paperwork."

In this case, Chevron hired a law firm willing to throw ethics to the wind and take extraordinary steps to concoct a story of Chevron as the actual VICTIM of a conspiracy. Just imagine what it would take to try to turn the tables after Chevron had ADMITTED to dumping toxic waste into the Amazon rainforest.

Well, it turns out the best way to do it is to go the ol' Nixon route and try a bunch of dirty tricks – and then accuse the other side of doing just those things. Who better to lead the campaign than the "guns for hire" known as Gibson Dunn & Crutcher? The same firm the Montana Supreme Court blasted for using "legal thuggery" and "blatant and malicious intimidation" tactics while another U.S. federal judge said that the firm maintained "a culture [of] obstruction and gamesmanship."

Just like their sister spin-doctor and PR flack Sam Singer, Gibson Dunn is quite open about using a template to defend its high-profile corporate clients who are losing legal cases or are trapped in scandal. It does this by targeting the lawyers or witnesses who held their clients accountable with character assassination and defamation campaigns.

Gibson Dunn masterminded a strategy where a single U.S. judge with more arrogance than Dick Cheney re-litigated the eight-year Ecuador trial in his courtroom in what can only be described as a Kafkaesque proceeding. The judge refused to consider the Ecuador trial record, the 64,000 chemical samplings results that proved Chevron committed a massive environmental crime, or the Supreme Court decision that already considered Chevron's complaints and rejected them.

How did Chevron and Gibson Dunn get it done? First they spent years trying to create dirt and get it to stick. They mounted racist attacks on Ecuador, hired PR firms and bloggers to attack the Ecuadorian communities, Ecuador's legal system, and of course the lawyers, activists, human rights defenders or allies supporting them. They launched "sting" operations, attempted to entrap judges, hid information about contamination from the court and turned a straightforward case into what is probably the most abusively litigated nightmare in the history of world jurisprudence. The trial in Ecuador took over a decade to complete.

While Chevron – under the "leadership" of CEO John Watson – was stitching together its Frankenstein monster in Ecuador, it laid the groundwork in the U.S. to fabricate a massive "conspiracy" to be used to try torpedo and delay the verdict they knew would be against them around the world.

Chevron and Gibson Dunn filed dozens of discovery lawsuits across the county and racked up over $36 million in legal fees. They tried to find any court that would hear their trumped up allegations. Many rejected them and one federal appellate court in Philadelphia reversed a discovery order stating "[t]he circumstances supporting [Chevron's] claim of fraud largely are allegations and allegations are not factual findings." The appeals court further chastised Chevron's attacks on the Ecuador courts as "disparaging." Some judges dismissed the firm's legal attacks under laws designed to fight "SLAPPs" (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, i.e. intimidation suits), while others ordered Gibson Dunn to pay fees to its adversary and other sanctions.

But when you have a self-deluded management team with unlimited shareholder funds and an army of lawyers, when confronted with resistance you simply dust ‘em off and try again. So the Chevron and Gibson Dunn fishing expedition eventually nailed a real whale with U.S.Judge Lewis A. Kaplan. With Kaplan essentially taking on the role of Chevron's prosecutor-in-chief in a courtroom where he officially presided as judge, the oil company and Gibson Dunn had never had it so good. The fact that Kaplan's show trial proceeding fell below minimal standards of due process is completely ignored by the company, even though the deep flaws in the proceeding will likely prove fatal to any effort by Chevron to use Kaplan's opinion to block enforcement actions in other jurisdictions.

Kaplan himself encouraged Chevron to file the RICO suit and assigned the case to his own court. He also called the villagers the "so-called" plaintiffs and said their case did not constitute "bona fide litigation" but instead was akin to "mud wrestling." He said the main legal advisor to the Ecuadorians, Steven Donziger, was using the case to become the "next big thing in fixing the balance of payments deficit" of the United States. Really?!

The story of the sham trial has been told many times on Eye on the Amazon. And Donny Rico will have more to say about the particulars of Chevron's (with Kaplan's encouragement) bribing of witnesses and creating fake conspiracies. But it still took massive resources to keep the truth from prevailing in court, and Chevron and Gibson Dunn had many ways to ensure this. Intimidation, pressure and legal might simply made it impossible for opponents to defend themselves.

If they came up against a consulting business that supported the Ecuadorians, they would pressure their other clients to drop them with fake allegations. Stratus Consulting, which had provided scientific reports backing the claims of toxic contamination, is a perfect for example. Chevron tried to block their access to government contracts essential to keeping their business afloat. They hounded Stratus to the brink of bankruptcy by filing misleading complaints with government agencies and creating defamatory websites. Stratus quickly buckled under the legal thuggery and signed a statement written by Gibson Dunn in favor of Chevron and in obvious contradiction to the facts in Ecuador and to the previous sworn statements of the group's consultants.

When facing opposition from journalists, Gibson Dunn either used Kaplan's court or legal threats to intimidate and force them to kill their stories, or to turn over all their sources and footage. Chevron fought CBS's 60 Minutes tooth and nail to prevent production of what turned out to be an extremely damning report (which, by the way, won the 2010 Edward R. Murrow Award). After winning Kaplan's verdict they scared CBS enough to remove the story from the company's website (still found here).

When they faced another big law firm (Patton Boggs) on the side of the Ecuadorian villagers, bullying Gibson Dunn simply found their weak spot and pressed as hard as they could until the firm backed down. Patton Boggs was counting on a merger with a larger law firm to rescue it from its economic problems. With a Kaplan-backed lawsuit filed by Chevron hanging over their heads, Patton Boggs paid Chevron $15 million to back off in violation of their own ethical obligations to their clients.

And what to do when facing growing grassroots pressure and shareholder dissent organized by environmental or human rights groups? Chevron and Gibson Dunn used multiple nasty strategies of attack. They went after our funding, tried to damage our reputation and used more legal thuggery to try to bog us down with massive subpoenas seeking hundreds of thousands of documents detailing campaign strategies and donor information.

But that's just where Gibson Dunn hit a snag. Backed by the pro bono support of excellent human rights and environmental lawyers from EarthRights International, Amazon Watch was ready to defend itself and did. The attacks from Chevron only demonstrated our own effectiveness to our donor base and actually strengthened our organization's resolve to press on.

When Amazon Watch was defending itself in federal court from Chevron subpoenas, Gibson Dunn repeatedly tried to move the case – improperly - into the hands of Judge Kaplan in New York. They failed. And in their attempts they were almost sanctioned by Federal Judge Nathaniel Cousins in San Francisco for serving such overly broad and abusive subpoenas. I guess they started to get a little drunk with power from Kaplan's unending support and got sloppy. But when this real judge looked impartially at their request, he stated that despite over 70 Gibson Dunn filings claiming that Amazon Watch was a conspirator "all that Chevron has shown this Court is that Amazon Watch has been very critical of Chevron's operations in Ecuador." He then warned Chevron that if it tried the same tactics again they had better take great care to "avoid infringing upon the organization's First Amendment rights. Otherwise, the Court (would) impose sanctions."

Gibson Dunn had to let that one go, and I am guessing they're still stewing over it.

One could write hundreds of pages detailing Gibson Dunn's dirty tactics, but we'll leave it to Donny on this note. As he mentions, Gibson Dunn's lead lawyer Randy Mastro personally met in Chicago with Chevron's key witness – disgraced ex-judge Guerra – to negotiate the exchange of huge sums of money and other benefits in exchange for his "factual" testimony. They also doctored video evidence and possibly engaged in fraud on the Ecuador court by failing to disclose that its technicians were ordered to hide dirty soil samples. The list of unprecedented attack on justice waged by Chevron and Gibson Dunn goes on and on. Increasingly disturbing to many is that their "pioneering" work could make it easier for other corporations to do the same without having to spend nearly as much. Kaplan's verdict, though likely to be overturned, could set a dangerous precedent by criminalizing First Amendment protected activities by environmental, human rights and corporate accountability groups.

Which leaves one wondering what's worse: committing the crime and then refusing to clean up, or wasting over a billion dollars to pay rich lawyers to fight while Ecuadorian communities continue to suffer? Actually, they are simply two different sides to the same Chevron coin....

Read Post

Who's Bribin' Who?

(0) Comments | Posted May 28, 2014 | 2:15 PM

Donny Rico (and Chevron) explain how to pollute the Amazon and get away wit' it.


Reposted from the Eye on the Amazon

Do people give people backpacks full of cold hard cash in exchange for legal testimony? People do. Chevron should know. They did exactly that.

Chevron's effort to avoid responsibility for one of the world's largest oil disasters and sink the $9 billion guilty verdict against it delivered by Ecuadorian courts – and upheld on three occasions – comes down to one man: Alberto Guerra. A corrupt ex-judge, he became Chevron's star witness in the company's RICO lawsuit against the Ecuador rainforest communities and their council. In testimony in U.S. Federal Court in New York, he testified that he had received a backpack full of cash in exchange for his testimony, along with a monthly stipend of $12,000 USD, a home, a car, and a crack legal team to get himself – and his family – political asylum in the United States. Pretty good deal for a guy who admitted to accepting bribes as low as $200.

The tale is eloquently told by corporate thug Donny Rico in his latest episode.

But of course you won't be hearing John Watson mention that today as shareholders gather for the company's annual general meeting in Midland, Texas. Watson will be touting the recent decision from Judge Kaplan's kangaroo court in New York against the Ecuadorians as the silver bullet that saved Chevron from liability for one of the world's most egregious environmental and human rights crimes. But Kaplan's decision – based almost entirely on Guerra's testimony – is on appeal before the Second Circuit in New York that overruled Kaplan before on the Ecuador issue.

But does the decision do what Watson claims it will? Does it insulate shareholders from risk? As has been written, Chevron is not out of the woods yet, and the Ecuadorians are not out of options. Chevron's problems under Watson go beyond the courtroom – to the court of public opinion.

Another liability that will likely be unmentioned by Watson is last week's global #AntiChevron day. In a sign that the fallout from the company's poor environmental and human rights record worldwide is spiraling out of control, some 20 actions occurred on five continents. Importantly, many of these were in communities where Chevron has existing operations, seeks to expand, or plans new exploration – critical to adding new reserves and increasing shareholder value. And while he can throw millions at lawyers and PR firms to continue to run from the Ecuador issue, the liability continues to rear its head in Canada, Brazil, and beyond.

Another major problem that Watson will surely sidestep is the increasing campaign of the Ecuadorian government to pressure Chevron to do the right thing. While the company has consistently dismissed it, there's a certain geopolitical reality that isn't good for Chevron. It can't be good for business to have Ecuador's President, Rafael Correa, widely considered the new leader of Latin America's left (who is in the process of changing the constitution to allow indefinite re-election), chumming it up with the presidents of UNASUR and ALBA countries about how Chevron drilled, dumped, and ran. In particular, Venezuela and Argentina represent both the company's largest operations in South America and its biggest new upstream investment, respectively.

Watson thought he would find solace in the wilds of west Texas by moving the meeting and thereby avoiding the protests in the Bay Area which have confronted him year in and year out. But even in oil-friendly, middle-of-nowhere Midland, affected community members found him. Humberto Piaguaje, a Secoya indigenous leader and representative of the network of affected communities said, “Wherever they go, we will be there, because the crime Chevron committed in Ecuador is unforgivable.”

To help shareholders cut through Watson's smokescreen at today's meeting, we turn it over to Chevron crony Donny Rico for a true rendering of how Chevron got an Ecuadorian judge to do its bidding.
...

Read Post

What Happens When an Oil Company Actually Chooses to Be Sociopathic? #AntiChevron Day

(5) Comments | Posted May 23, 2014 | 12:54 AM


Reposted from the Eye on the Amazon

You gotta give Chevron's management credit for bringing people together - across oceans, continents, and borders. Not because the company is a good neighbor; quite the opposite. Communities on five continents who...

Read Post

The Bush Doctrine Comes to Oakland Courtesy of Chevron

(2) Comments | Posted April 24, 2014 | 8:29 PM

Chevron continued its unprecedented campaign of attacking its critics last week when I was forcibly removed from a half-day conference (which I'd paid $75 to attend) simply because I was affiliated with Amazon Watch. The strangest part was that the excuse given for the outrageous step was that...

Read Post

Don't Buy Chevron's Big Lie!

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2014 | 2:27 PM

Don't Buy Chevron's Big Lie!

Reposted from Eye on the Amazon (more images available there)

Global Warming is a Myth

The NSA is Not Really Spying on Americans

The CIA Doesn't...

Read Post

Shut It You Long-haired Hippie

(0) Comments | Posted January 23, 2014 | 9:56 AM

2014-01-21-donny_refinery.png

WATCH MY VIDEO ON YOUTUBE

[Re-posted from the Eye On The Amazon]

Donny Rico here to deliver a message to all you long-haired hippie activist types complaining about the environment and human rights. Be warned: things have changed in...

Read Post

The Truth Has No Place in Kaplan's Court

(0) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 11:18 AM

2013-12-09-2013cvx1400deaths.jpg

Re-posted from the Eye On The Amazon


You likely already know that Chevron (as Texaco) admitted to deliberately dumping close to 18 billion gallons of toxic foundation waters into the pristine Ecuadorian Amazon over several decades (1964-1992)....

Read Post

You Get What You Pay for (Perjury, in This Case)

(0) Comments | Posted December 8, 2013 | 9:26 AM

2013-11-01-CHEVRONguerra.jpg

Reposted from Eye on the Amazon

Having virtually all the money in the world often means you can buy silence, you can buy time, and you can buy lies. Chevron has demonstrated this time and again in its decades-long battle to evade...

Read Post

How Responsible Is Business for Social Responsibility?

(0) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 6:44 PM

Destruction from the Belo Monte Dam

Reposted from the Eye on the Amazon

We're all quite conscious of the fact that corporations in America grow more powerful each day. One merely has to look at the elections since the...

Read Post

Forget WallyWorld: At Chevron They Live in WatsonWorld

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2013 | 2:25 PM

There are many ways to describe the experience of participating in a Chevron Annual Shareholder Meeting. One is often left wondering if those inside are as completely divorced from reality as their words suggest, or if they are just putting on a show for a room full of cardboard cut...

Read Post

We Beat Chevron, but the Fight for Real Justice Continues

(2) Comments | Posted April 8, 2013 | 3:06 PM

At one point or another every social justice activist wakes up wondering if we stand a chance against the massive forces acting against us. This week, my faith in justice was given a boost when Amazon Watch won a major victory in the face of Chevron's massive legal...

Read Post

You Can't Fool the People!

(0) Comments | Posted October 4, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Despite years of fighting to escape justice in Ecuador, Chevron has never quite learned Abraham Lincoln's old adage: "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the...

Read Post

How Lawyer Arrogance Imperils Chevron Shareholders in Ecuador

(14) Comments | Posted January 4, 2012 | 10:58 AM

One of the more interesting aspects of the $18 billion Chevron-Ecuador environmental case is not only that the oil giant recently offered a $1 billion bribe to Ecuador's government to quash the case, but how a series of monumental mistakes by the American law firm Gibson Dunn...

Read Post

Chevron's Leadership Is an Oxymoron

(10) Comments | Posted November 14, 2011 | 1:09 PM

Chevron has no clothes
The theme for this year's Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) conference in San Francisco last week was "redefining leadership." I have no qualm with that, for when I realized that Chevron was not only...

Read Post

Ecuadorian Community Leaders Thank Supporters and Amazon Watch

(0) Comments | Posted July 18, 2011 | 1:36 PM

On May 17, Causes.com highlighted an inspiring project by Amazon Watch. Today, a part of their effort has reached its conclusion, and they featured a blog post from my (cross posted at Causes.com)

A few days ago three Ecuadorian activists, representing a community of 30,000 people in Ecuador...

Read Post

Amazon Watch Brings the Fight To Chevron's Doorstep

(0) Comments | Posted May 17, 2011 | 3:08 PM

Cross-posted from Causes.com

Today Amazon Watch, in partnership with the Rainforest Action Network, brought 3 Ecuadorian community activists to the United States. They will stop in New York City to meet with NGOs, Washington DC to speak with lawmakers, and finally...

Read Post

History Made in the Ecuadorian Amazon!

(3) Comments | Posted February 16, 2011 | 2:20 PM

Yesterday, David struck Goliath with a fearsome blow that sent shockwaves to the horizon.

Imagine yourself a small farmer in the remote Ecuadorian Amazon and that your community has been devastated by deliberate environmental destruction. Imagine that your children were born with birth defects or worse yet,...

Read Post

Yasuni-ITT: Chronicle of a Death Foretold?

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2010 | 9:51 AM

(Originally posted at amazonwatch.org)

Ecuador's historic proposal to keep some 850 million barrels of crude that lay beneath the country's stunning Yasuní National Park hit a familiar roadblock last weekend, as President Rafael Correa undermined his own negotiating team, denounced foreign donors, and threatened to drill in...

Read Post

Chevron's Blogger Propagandists: Accuse First, Ask (No) Questions Later

(1) Comments | Posted December 17, 2009 | 5:13 PM

Originally posted at chevroninecuador.com:

We've written before about the motley crew of bloggers who fervently defend Chevron in its ongoing effort to run from a multibillion dollar liability for environmental disaster in Ecuador. Chevron is certainly not an easy company to stick up for, given its...

Read Post

Sex, Lies, and Videotape: Chevron's Spy Games Unraveling

(0) Comments | Posted September 7, 2009 | 3:46 PM

(Originally posted at chevroninecuador.com)

Update: Judge Nunez has decided to recuse himself from the trial in order to clear the path for the legal proceedings to continue uninterrupted. read the statement HERE

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, there's no sex (fortunately). But...

Read Post