Steven Donziger is clearly the “star” in the documentary-style film, “Crude,” about the $113 billion shakedown lawsuit against Chevron claiming environmental damage in Ecuador. The New York trial lawyer is profane, arrogant, and in numerous outtakes obtained by Chevron, repeatedly reveals the corruption at the heart of the litigation. Donziger’s admissions against interest have done so much damage to the suit that he has reduced his public role with the plaintiffs’ team, which has turned to the prestigious law firm and lobbying outfit, Patton Boggs, to salvage its case.
But there’s another great performance in the film, a cameo appearance that bears close attention. In segments never shown to the public, Alexis Mera, Ecuador’s Secretary of Judicial Affairs and a legal advisor to President Rafael Correa, strategizes with the plaintiffs’ legal team about how best to apply political pressure to a public prosecutor and even revoke an Ecuadorian law so the lawsuit gains a modicum of legitimacy.
Mera’s comments — and other revelations from the outtakes — demonstrate that the government of Ecuador has been actively aiding the U.S. trial lawyers’ plans to extort billions out of a U.S.-based company. The scheming by top government officials, as well as comments by Correa himself, reinforce the Ecuadorian government’s anti-American policies and contempt for international law.
On March 29, 2007, Mera met in his offices with the legal team of the so-called Lago Agrio plaintiffs, including Pablo Fajardo, Alejandro Ponce Villacis, and Julio Prietro, as well as the activist and public face of the anti-Chevron awsuit, Luis Yanza. In one outtake, Mera says, “The problem, I see, is what to do and how we can help each other.”
The video, available here, continues with Mera and the team discussing the Public Prosecutor’s office, which the plaintiffs’ lawyers are demanding should bring criminal charges against two Chevron attorneys in Ecuador. The plaintiffs want the charges brought to introduce personal risk into the portfolio of pressure tactics; Chevron might be more inclined to settle if its employees could be sent to jail.
The top justice official advises, “You have to take the people from the Orient [province] there, hold a demonstration. The people — that’s how this country works. Close Republica Street.”
Then there’s this, Mera’s clear recognition that his discussions with the plaintiffs are improper.
Mera and the plaintiffs’ team are talking about a “nullity suit” to revoke the Ecuadorian government’s previous sign-off on Texaco’s clean-up of its Ecuadorian oil operations. (Chevron acquired Texaco in 2001.) As they’re discussing these legal issues, Mera seems to realize the camera is on.
MERA: Why are they filming? Why are they filming? That seems to me to be completely improper. Forgive me for the way I’m saying it.
Camerman: Let’s see. Forgive me. Excuse me. (Cut off)
When you’re a government official scheming with a private party in a lawsuit, you tend not to want to be caught on camera. (continue reading…)