Organized criminals, human rights defenders, and oil companies

Weaponization of the RICO Act across jurisdictional borders

in Focaal
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  • 1 Princeton University lofrias@princeton.edu
  • 2 gordonroecker@gmail.com
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Abstract

This article examines how the world's arguably largest oil disaster, in the heart of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest, has become a testing ground for new global forms of corporate power and the criminalization of dissent. Following the ongoing “trial of the century” between Chevron Corporation and plaintiffs representing tens of thousands of smallholder farmers and indigenous people affected by the disaster, we look at how the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act has been applied against the affected people and their lawyers to sidestep the norm of international comity and alter the parameters for pursuing environmental justice. Specifically, we point to how the case—and a new crop of cases following suit—has threatened to criminalize the use of “lawfare” as a “weapon of the weak.”

Contributor Notes

Lindsay Ofrias is a PhD candidate in anthropology and a recipient of the Lassen Fellowship in Latin American Studies at Princeton University. She is also a fellow with the Social Science Research Council. Her research focuses on environmental justice, petro-politics, and social movements. Email: Lofrias@princeton.edu

Gordon Roecker is a multimedia journalist who, after training at New York University's Gallatin School and Tisch School of the Arts, has spent several years working in film and television production in Latin America, with special focus on the Chevron-Ecuador litigation. Email: gordonroecker@gmail.com

Focaal

Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology

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