“Our work in Ecuador is an example of the good things that can happen when thousands of people, most without money or power, can come together in a common effort to better themselves and the planet.”
Fajardo, 35, has been spearheading the legal team for the plaintiffs for several years, as they demand an environmental remediation from Chevron estimated to cost $6 billion. During nearly three decades of drilling in a vast, inhabited area of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Texaco dumped more than 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater. Now, impoverished local communities are suffering a wave of cancers, stillbirths, birth defects and other severe health problems.
Born into extreme poverty, Fajardo only became a lawyer in 2004, after first working as a manual laborer, including in the oil fields of his hometown of Lago Agrio, while completing a correspondence law degree.
During that time, Fajardo became an increasingly outspoken community leader, opposed to the devastation wrought by Texaco on his people and their once pristine rainforest lands. Now, in his first trial, Fajardo, who travels around by bicycle, finds himself confronting a team of highly-paid, extremely experienced lawyers contracted by Chevron.
Down the years, Fajardo appears to have paid a high price for his pursuit of justice. One of the friends who helped to pay for him to go through law school was murdered as was one of Fajardo’s brothers, a Christian minister. Neither murder has been resolved by the Ecuadorian authorities.
© 2004 Lou Dematteis