Ecuador 05/03/2012

Chevron claims the backing of an international tribunal in lawsuit against Ecuador, a new organ donation law comes into force and the tomb of last Inca Emperor is claimed to have been found in Ecuador.

Chevron seeks support from international tribunal

On February 28, Chevron claimed the backing of an international tribunal in its fight to prevent Ecuador from enforcing a pollution fine against it that could reach US $18.2 billion.

The panel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that it has the jurisdiction to hear the US oil giant’s claims against Ecuador, after Chevron presented its case before the court. The panel was set up through The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and works under rules established by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

The decision has sparked debate among international law bodies and the Ecuadorian national courts as the ruling of the international arbitral tribunal ordering Ecuadorian government to interfere in the decision of Ecuador’s independent court system on behalf of Chevron has no precedents.

The tribunal based its ruling on the US-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which mandates an international tribunal for disputes relating to investments by US firms in Ecuador.

Ecuador argues that BIT did not apply to the case as it came into rule five years after Texaco finished operations in Ecuadorian territory in 1992, but Chevron insists on the BIT validity and accuses Ecuador’s domestic judicial system of fraud in handling the case.

Last year, Chevron was ordered to pay $8.6 billion for environmental damage in the Lago Agrio by an Ecuadorian court. The inhabitants of the region argue that the oil operations of US firm Texaco, acquired by Chevron in 2001, caused extensive pollution to the rain forest and damage to people’s health.

Ecuadorians donate organs

The new bill that makes organ donations for transplant automatic at death unless a prospective donor has specifically ‘opted-out’ comes into force from 4 March.

The article 29 of the Organ Donation and Transplants Law, which was approved in January 2011 by the national legislature, establishes that all Ecuadorian and residents would automatically donate their organs, tissue and human cells after brain death is declared, unless they ‘opt-out’ at the registration office and it is indicated on their identity documents.

As reported by the Organismo Nacional de Trasplantes de Órganos y Tejidos (Ontot) 500 people are currently in waiting list for organ transplant and could be benefited by the new law. Kidneys are the most sought-after organs: 5,000 patients are currently undergoing dialysis and a significant percentage of them could receive a transplant.

It is estimated that up to 7% of deaths in hospitals could qualify to be organ donors. Between 2010 and 2011, Ontot reported more than 800 successful transplants. So far, 110 people have received organ transplants in 2012.

According to Diana Almeida, director of Ontot, initiatives supported by national legislation such as the new organ donation law are ‘efficient alternatives for poor countries as the improve people’s quality of life and represent savings for the State.’

However, concerns regarding the level of control in hospitals have been voiced as many argue that it is necessary to create a control body in order to prevent medical negligence and organ trafficking.

The Last Emperor’s tomb is found

Ruins discovered near Quito are believed to be the lost tomb of the last Incan emperor, Athahualpa, according to recent reports.

The archaeological site was discovered in the area called Sigchos, about 45 miles (72km) south of Quito. Ecuadorian historian Tamara Estupiñán, found a complex of walls, aqueducts and stonework that lie inside the Machay rural retreat.

The expert pinpointed the site as potentially Atahualpa’s resting place. In June 2010 Tamara Estupiñán, now a researcher with the French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA), started the reseach project and found what she describes as an ‘Inca archeological site high on the Andes.’

While many experts have other theories, Estupiñán believes that when Atahualpa was killed his remains could have been brought by his most loyal man, Ruminahui, to Sigchos, Ecuador.

During the Spanish conquest he was taken captive in what is now Cajamarca, Peru. He had been pressed to convert to Christianity and then the Spanish executed him by strangulation under Francisco Pizarro. The Inca empire began to fall apart after Atahualpa’s death in 1533.

‘This is an absolutely important find for the history of Ecuador’s archaeology and for the [Andean] region,’ said Patrimony Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa, speaking of the recent discovery.