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Ecuador proposes debt swap to enlarge Galapagos

Ecuador proposes debt swap to enlarge Galapagos


Ecuador proposed Monday to enlarge the Galapagos nature reserve, famous for its giant tortoises, by some 60,000 square kilometers and finance it with a debt swap.


President Guillermo Lasso announced the move at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The Galapagos, an archipelago located 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, takes its name from the gigantic tortoises that live there.

The islands were made famous by British geologist and naturalist Charles Darwin’s observations on evolution there.

They host a reserve of some 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles), the world’s second-largest and home to some 2,900 marine species. It is listed as a Natural World Heritage Site.

On Monday, Lasso said another 60,000 square kilometers would be added to the marine reserve established in 1998.

It would expand northward to include the Cocos Ridge, and would entail a ban on industrial fishing as well as subsistence fishing in some areas.

The move should be financed, Lasso said, by a “debt-for-conservation swap.”

Such transactions entail forgiving part of a developing nation’s debt in exchange for local investment in conservation programs.

Ecuador is in an economic down-spiral that has been aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic, with external debt at almost $46 billion, or 45 percent of GDP.

The country of 17.7 million people has seen recent protests against soaring fuel prices as the government cuts subsidies as required by the International Monetary Fund to reduce spending in exchange for loans.

“We estimate that this will be the highest amount for a debt swap so far in the world,” said the president.

“We will be very careful to evaluate each of the proposals in order to maximize the effects of conservation,” Lasso added.

According to Ecuador’s central bank, some 15.6 percent of the country’s debt is owed to other countries, including England, Spain and the United States.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says protected areas play a vital role in climate change mitigation by limiting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and shielding communities from the worst impacts.

Source:

AFP via France24



Six-Month Sentence for Lawyer Who Took on Chevron Denounced as ‘International Outrage’

Six-Month Sentence for Lawyer Who Took on Chevron Denounced as ‘International Outrage’


Conviction of Steven Donziger, said one critic, “perfectly encapsulates how corporate power has twisted the U.S. justice system to protect corporate interests and punish their enemies.”


Environmental justice advocates and other progressives on Friday condemned a federal judge’s decision Friday to sentence human rights lawyer Steven Donziger to six months in prison—following more than two years of house arrest related to a lawsuit he filed decades ago against oil giant Chevron.

The sentence, delivered by U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska in New York City, represents “an international outrage,” tweeted journalist Emma Vigeland following its announcement.

Donziger’s sentence came a day after the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said it was “appalled” by the U.S. legal system’s treatment of the former environmental lawyer and demanded the U.S. government “remedy the situation of Mr. Steven Donziger without delay and bring it in conformity with the relevant international norms” by immediately releasing him.

Donziger represented a group of farmers and Indigenous people in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador in the 1990s in a lawsuit against Texaco—since acquired by Chevron—in which the company was accused of contaminating soil and water with its “deliberate dumping of billions of gallons of cancer-causing waste into the Amazon.”

“Chevron caused a mass industrial poisoning in the Amazon that crushed the lives of Indigenous peoples. Six courts and 28 appellate judges found the company guilty. Fight on.”

Steven Donziger

An Ecuadorian court awarded the plaintiffs a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011—a decision upheld by multiple courts in Ecuador—only to have a U.S. judge reject the ruling, accusing Donziger of bribery and evidence tampering. Chevron also countersued Donziger in 2011. 

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York—a former corporate lawyer with investments in Chevron—held Donziger in contempt of court after he refused to disclose privileged information about his clients to the fossil fuel industry. Kaplan placed Donziger under house arrest, where he has remained under strict court monitoring for 787 days.

In addition to Kaplan’s own connections to Chevron, the judge appointed private attorneys to prosecute the case, including one who had worked for a firm that represented the oil giant.

Preska, who found Donziger guilty of the contempt charges in July, is a leader of the right-wing Federalist Society, which counts Chevron among its financial backers.

“As I face sentencing on Day 787 of house arrest, never forget what this case is really about,” tweeted Donziger on Friday morning, as he awaited the sentencing. “Chevron caused a mass industrial poisoning in the Amazon that crushed the lives of Indigenous peoples. Six courts and 28 appellate judges found the company guilty.”

Donziger indicated Friday afternoon that he plans to appeal the sentence.

“Stay strong,” he tweeted along with a photo from a rally attended by his supporters Friday.

350.org co-founder and author Bill McKibben said on social media that Donziger “deserves our thanks and support” for “daring to point out that Big Oil had poisoned the rainforest.”Rick Claypool, research director for Public Citizen, tweeted that Donziger’s case “perfectly encapsulates how corporate power has twisted the U.S. justice system to protect corporate interests and punish their enemies”—noting that as Donziger is ordered to prison for six months, members of the Sackler family recently won immunity from opioid lawsuits targeting their private company, Purdue Pharma.

“This ruling was done to deter ANYONE from crossing corporate special interests,” said progressive former congressional candidate Jen Perelman.

Source:

Julia Conley at Common Dreams