Who are Los Afectados?
Since the American oil company Texaco—absorbed by Chevron in 2001—first began drilling for oil in the Oriente region of the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1964, its residents have been subject to the horrible impacts of the company’s irresponsible and reckless operational practices. The unfortunate victims of Chevron’s penny-pinching and lack of environmental controls are known as Los Afectados, or The Affected Ones. These victims live in roughly 80 indigenous and farmer communities spread over Ecuador’s northern Amazon region. This section is intended to provide a basic introduction to the people affected — people whose compelling stories too often get drowned out by Chevron’s legal skirmishing and efforts to dehumanize the conflict. Doak Bishop, one of Chevron’s key American lawyers, even went as far to assert in open court how Chevron really feels about the people it harmed:
“The plaintiffs are really irrelevant. They always were irrelevant. There were never any real parties in interest in this case. The plaintiff’s lawyers have no clients… There will be no prejudice to [the rainforest communities] or any individual by holding up enforcement of the judgment.”
Numerous independent health studies [see here
, and here
] suggest that hundreds, and possibly thousands, of innocent people who live in the area of Chevron’s former operations in Ecuador have died of cancer or other oil-related diseases. Evidence demonstrates that the formerly pristine lands and waterways inhabited by indigenous groups are now fouled by known human carcinogens and toxins such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzoanthracene, benzopyrene, and phenanthrene.
Soil and water samples taken from Chevron oil sites during the Ecuador trial established illegal levels of barium, cadmium, copper, chromium VI, mercury, naphthalene, nickel, lead, vanadium, and zinc. The preeminent authority on toxicity, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, has made it clear how these chemicals cause cancer and can adversely affect the functioning of the immune, nervous and reproductive systems.
Los Afectados are the indigenous people—the Cofán, Secoya, Siona, Kichwa, and Huaorani—who have been tied to the land as subsistence farmers for thousands of years. These are people for whom the concept of nature and the environment has a name, Pachamama — translated roughly as “mother world” that is entitled to protection under the law. Los Afectados are also the thousands of farmers, known as campesinos, who have ventured to the Oriente from other parts of Ecuador seeking opportunity to improve their lives of those of their future generations.
Los Afectados are the more than 30,000 men and women in Ecuador’s Amazon who have joined the effort to hold Chevron accountable for its recklessness and criminal conduct.
Meet a few of these individuals, and read their testimonies, below.
Cofan indigenous leader Emergildo Criollo examining oil-contaminated water in once-pristine rainforest that has been home to his tribe for millennia.
Read the testimonial of Emergildo Criollo.
Luz Maria Marin holds the head of her husband Angel Toala on the day before he died of stomach cancer at his home in Shushufindi.
Read the testimonial of Luz Maria Marin.
At her home in Andina, Amanda Armijos stands in front of a photo of herself and husband Saul Apolo who died of stomach cancer at age 49.
Read the testimonial of Amanda Francisca Armijos.
Jairo Yumbo, pictured at age nine, on the Via Auca road in front of his home in Rumipamba.
Read the testimonial of Jairo’s father, Miguel Yumbo.
José Miguel Mashumar and Maria Claudio Antuash sit with portraits of two of their daughters who died of oil-related illnesses.
Read the testimonial of José Miguel Mashumar & Maria Claudia Antuash.
Toribio Aguinda poles a canoe down a stream off the Aguarico river, in the ancestral lands of the Cofan indigenous people
Read the testimonial of Toribio Aguinda.
Dolores Morales holds a photo of her nineteen-year-old son Pedro, who died of cancer.
Read the testimonial of Dolores Morales and her son, José.
Juana Apolo walks out of a cemetery in La Andina where her father, brother and sister are buried, all of whom died of cancer.
Read the testimonial of Juana Apolo.
Maria Villacís shows the scars from four operations on her liver and gallbladder at her farm near Guanta Oil Well # 8.
Read the testimonial of Maria Villacís and her husband Beningo Martinéz.
With her 8 year old sister Alexandra Raquel at left, 15-year-old Myra Chicaiza sits on the floor of her home in Dureno.
Read the testimonial of Myra’s mother, Rosa Mercedes Chicaiza.
Humberto Piaguaje, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC to deliver an Open Letter to the People of the United States about the plight of the Amazon communities affected by Chevron’s operations
Read the testimonial of Humberto Piaguaje.
Uterine cancer victim Rosana Sisalima with her granddaughter at their home in San Carlos in 2004. Rosana died in 2006.
Read the testimonial of Rosana Sisalma.
Modesta Briones in her house near Parahuaco Oil Well #2. Doctors amputated her leg because of a cancerous tumor.
Read the testimonial of Modesta Briones and her husband, Segundo Salinas.