Welcome to the Carnival of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The big stories of the week:
The judge of the Chevron-Ecuador lawsuit (the largest lawsuit in history) reclused himself after damning videos showed him in a bribery situation.
Brazil and France sign huge defense deals involving the building of 36 fighter jets and nuclear technology.
Hugo Chavez travels through Libya, Syria, Iran, Algeria, Belarus and Russia, and hints at a nuclear Venezuela.
Ecuadorian Judge Juan Núñez, the judge presiding over the Chevron environmental lawsuit in Lago Agrio, made the decision Friday to recuse himself from the case. Chevron has maintained that no judge who has participated in the type of meetings shown in the video recordings (released earlier in the week) could possibly have rendered a legitimate decision.
Transcripts of a meeting recorded on June 5 clearly show the judge has prejudged the case even though evidence was still being submitted and final arguments have not been held. And the judge was willing to talk about that decision with businessmen (Hansen) seeking post-verdict remediation contracts.
he oil giant Chevron said Monday that it had obtained video recordings of meetings in Ecuador this year that appear to reveal a bribery scheme connected to a $27 billion lawsuit the company faces over environmental damage at oil fields it operated in remote areas of the Amazon forest in Ecuador.
The videos, together with audio recordings obtained by businessmen using watches and pens implanted with bugging devices, appear to implicate Ecuadoran officials and political operatives, including possibly Juan Núñez, the judge overseeing the lawsuit, and Pierina Correa, the sister of Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa.
The recordings indicate that an Ecuadoran political operative was working to obtain $3 million in bribes related to environmental cleanup contracts to be awarded in the event of a ruling against Chevron.
It was not clear from the recordings and transcripts provided by Chevron, however, whether any bribes discussed in the recordings were actually paid or whether Judge Núñez was even aware of plans to try to bribe him. The tapes also did not demonstrate whether the president’s sister was aware of the scheme or had participated in it.
But in a statement that Chevron says illustrates that the judge’s handling of the case is flawed, Judge Núñez said on one of the video recordings that he planned to rule against Chevron by January and that damages could exceed $27 billion.
But the tapes confirm three serious things: the Ecuadorean judge has already decided to rule against Chevron later this year, even before he’s heard the evidence; that he can no longer preside over this case; that the government, though not a party to the lawsuit, will benefit from the $26 billion jackpot; and that the judge can no longer credibly preside over the case; and that any appeal of the court’s decision would be, in the judge’s words on the video, “a formality.”
the government would be handling the funds associated with remediation contracts. In a final exchange with the businessmen before the meeting ended, Judge Núñez revealed how he was planning to handle his ruling:
Núñez: “Any other questions for me as a judge?”
Hansen: “Oh no, I, I know clearly how it is, you say, Chevron is the guilty party?”
Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
Hansen: “And the, the, the act (decision) is October or November of this year?”
Núñez: “Yes Sir.”
Hansen: “And it’s…?”
Núñez: “No later than January.”
Hansen: “January 2010. And the money is twenty-seven (billion dollars)?”
Núñez: “It might be less, and it might be more.”
The last recorded meeting regarding the bribes, in which Judge Núñez was not present, occurred June 22 at the Alianza PAIS office in Quito. During the meeting, Garcia confirmed the details of the bribe:
Borja: “OK. Of the three million … one million is for the judge?”
Borja: “One million for the presidency…?”
Borja: “And one million for the plaintiffs?”
Garcia: “Yes, that’s right.”
Borja: “But for the plaintiffs, who gets the money, man? Fajardo?”
Garcia: “No. On this matter, we’re going to handle it here.”
Borja: “You mean Alianza PAIS would receive the payment here?”
This morning my guest reporter Silvia Santacruz, talked about the case and the bribery allegations in today’s podcast.