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Ecuador keeps up oil cleanup fight against Chevron

November 17, 2008 | 11:45 am

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Chris Kraul reports from Ecuador:

Abel Garrido has just struck oil and he's not happy about it.

Using a tree branch, the weathered farmer probed the edge of a pond that his cattle use for drinking water and soon turned up the smelly black sludge that he says has killed much of his livestock and sickened his family.

"I've lost 30 cows," Garrido said. "I cut them open and their insides are black."

Paying the medical bills to treat his three children for skin cancer has cost him his meager savings.

"Here's the cause," Garrido said, contemplating the dark slime gleaming on the end of the branch.

The contamination at Garrido's farm and hundreds of others in a Rhode Island-sized area here in the Ecuadorean Amazon is the basis of a controversial, long-running civil lawsuit in which a verdict is expected early next year.

On one side are 30,000 mostly peasant farmers like Garrido who say they are living a health and ecological nightmare caused by careless oil drilling and production methods that contaminated their drinking water and spoiled their lush jungle environment.

On the other side is defendant Chevron, the San Ramon, Calif.-based parent company which in 2001 acquired Texaco, which produced oil here from 1972 to 1990, and which the lawsuit claims polluted a vast swath of the Amazon. Chevron says Texaco cleaned up its share of the spills with three years of remediation work and that the Ecuadorean government absolved it of all future responsibility in 1998.

Read more of "Ecuador keeps up oil cleanup fight against Chevron" here.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo:  Abel Garrido stands near his oil-polluted pond in Coca, Ecuador. “I’ve lost 30 cows,” Garrido says. “I cut them open and their insides are black.” Chris Kraul / Los Angeles Times

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