Ecuador Judge Juan Núñez and the ’60 Minutes’ Hit Piece on Chevron

By August 31, 2009Briefly Legal, Energy, Trade

Chevron today released videos and materials documenting a bribery scheme that would enrich the presiding judge in Ecuador, Juan Núñez, for ruling against the company in a multibillion lawsuit orchestrated by U.S. trial lawyers and environmentalists. (See below.)

We remember Judge Núñez from the sympathetic portrait “60 Minutes” did of him in its hit piece against Chevron earlier in May. The good folks at the Business and Media Institute destroyed the CBS pseudo-news report in an analysis, “‘60 Minutes’ Promotes $27-Billion Leftist ‘Fraud’ Efforts Against Chevron.” The whole piece is worth revisiting, but especially this part about Judge Núñez, under the title, “‘60 Minutes’ Gives Pass to Ecuadoran Justice System”:

The case will be heard by Juan Nunez, a judge in Lago Agrio, Ecuador. The ruling could come at anytime and Chevron is doubtful it will get a fair ruling. Pelley’s investigation took him to the Ecuadoran court, but he didn’t press the judge on the government’s poor reputation for fair justice.

“So who is the $27-billion judge? We found Juan Nunez in his court on the third floor of this shopping mall in the Amazon town of Lago Agrio,” Pelley said. “Texaco named the town for Sour Lake, Texas where Texaco got its start. Nunez struck us as serious and thoughtful. He’s been on the case for a year and he’s been out to the waste pits. The verdict will be his decision alone. There is no jury.”

Pelley inquired to Nunez if Chevron would get a fair hearing, explaining Chevron felt otherwise.

“That is not the case,” Nunez replied through a translator. “I believe that justice has to be given to everyone as they deserve – like a good father of a family, to give a child what a child is entitled to.”

However, there is no independent rule of law in Ecuador. The country’s judiciary branch is controlled by its leftist, anti-American president, Rafeal Correa, who came to power in January 2007. Correa had actually called those who brought the suit against Chevron “heroes” according to “60 Minutes,” showing there’s no impartiality by the Ecuadoran government.

In June, major business groups including the National Association of Manufacturers wrote U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk drawing attention to trade preferences granted to country, deeply troubling in light of the corruption. From the letter:

As found by the State Department in its annual human rights report on Ecuador released in February 2009, there are concerns with “corruption and the denial of due process within [Ecuador’s] judicial system.” U.S. businesses have also continued to see Ecuador’s repudiation of its legal obligations to U.S. investors and a politicization of the judicial system.

So there is a clear pattern of corruption, well documented, now punctuated by the videos released by Chevron.

Disclosure: I’ve already disclosed this numerous times, but in June, I went to Ecuador on Chevron’s dime for an on-site briefing of the issues.

Leave a Reply