HOUSTON, TX, May 26, 2010 - At Chevron's shareholder meeting today the company faced outrage for its continued lies, deception, silencing of critics, and human rights abuses. Concerned community leaders from several nations including Ecuador and Nigeria traveled from around the world yet were refused entry to Chevron's annual meeting.
One of the few community members allowed inside the shareholder meeting was Mariana Jimenez, a 71-year-old grandmother from Ecuador. She spoke directly to Chevron's CEO and Board and demanded an end to Chevron's lies about the massive oil contamination in Ecuador that is destroying her community in the Amazon rainforest.
"In 1976, I lost two young children. In 1979, one of my daughters became very sick with an unknown illness on her throat and lost her voice for three months. People are still getting sick every day. There are children born with birth defects. I want him [Watson] to take responsibility for the crime that his company committed in my country."
Rather than showing Ms. Jimenez and the 30,000 other Ecuadorean people the respect they deserve, Chevron CEO John Watson chose to mock the community's suffering and disingenuously claimed that, "My predecessor (former CEO David O'Reilly) showed great empathy and I will do the same."
"We don't need empathy from Chevron, we need them to accept full responsibility for the pain and suffering they have caused our people and clean up Ecuador now," said Guillermo Grafa, an Indigenous leader from Ecuador who was denied access to Chevron's shareholder meeting after traveling from his home in the rainforest.
Chevron's Board also felt the heat inside the shareholder meeting. During the Board re-election process, shareholders challenged Chevron's Board of Directors to intervene in the company's failed strategy of covering up its massive liability.
"While Chevron's management systematically deceives regulators, shareholders, and the public about its liability in Ecuador, the Board of Directors has been asleep at the wheel," said Maria Ramos, Change Chevron Campaign Director at Rainforest Action Network.
"Since taking the helm at Chevron, we have seen Mr. Watson continue to endorse this company's long running, expensive and dead-end strategy with respect to the dire situation in the Amazon -- a strategy which has cost both the company and the people of the Amazon dearly."
Meanwhile outside, Chevron arrested four shareholders and representatives who refused to leave Chevron property after they were denied access to the meeting. Those arrested were trying to voice their concerns about environmental destruction and human rights abuses in Ecuador, Richmond, CA, Houston, TX, and around the world. The people arrested were Han Shan and Mitchell Anderson of Amazon Watch; Juan Parras of TEJAS in Houston; Rev Ken Davis from Richmond. Antonia Juhasz of the True Cost of Chevron coalition was arrested while trying to make a statement inside the shareholder meeting after being admitted with a valid proxy. None of the arrested had been released as of 3:30 pm CT.
Amazon Watch staff Han Shan and Mitch Anderson participated in the "sit in" before their arrests. "More than 20,000 [Chevron] proxy shareholders have been barred from the meeting for no valid, legal or legitimate reason, but simply because they come from communities in Ecuador, in Burma, in Nigeria, in Richmond, CA like Rev. Davis here. And they want to deny those people speaking out about their concerns. It's appalling." Said Han Shan. Mitch Anderson added, "We are not leaving the premises. They have disenfranchised our voices and they are going to have to drag us out of here."
Shelley Alpern, Vice-President at Trillium Asset Management Corporation was also outraged at Chevron's actions, stating, "I attend several shareholder meetings every year and I have never seen a company deny entry to legal proxy holders. This is outrageous and reflects very poorly on our company's respect for the laws that govern our proxy process. The shareholders in attendance today should stand forewarned not to say anything critical or it could be you next year."
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