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THE OIL CURSE
The discovery of oil is usually celebrated as a one-way ticket to wealth and economic growth. Oil companies are now scouring the earth to uncover new sources in some of the world's poorest countries.
But recent history shows that the presence of oil in a developing country makes life worse, not better, for most of its population. It's the poorest who pay the most to satisfy the West's growing thirst for fuel.
Critics say that the discovery of oil in ECUADOR has ruined local environments and destroyed the traditional way of life for the Indians in the Amazon's rain forest. Water samples taken from the area are full of cadmium, nickel and lead. The levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
(PAH's) are 40 thousand times greater than allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.
A potential six billion dollar (U.S.) lawsuit is currently being waged against Texaco in a local court in Lago Agrio, Ecuador on behalf of 73 local Ecuadorian plaintiffs.
Cristobal Bonifaz is the lawyer who, 10 years ago, filed the law suit in New York and won a landmark ruling that if the plaintiffs win their case against Texaco in Ecuador, damages will be enforceable in the U.S. It's a hugely important precedent and one that could cost the oil giant billions.
Ecuador's oil assets are now owned by the state company, Petro-Ecuador. In an agreement with Texaco, Petro-Ecuador assumed the responsibility of cleaning up the environmental mess. Polluted oil pits still dot the countryside, poisoning water supplies and sickening the local population.
READ MORE ABOUT OIL IN ECUADOR
ANGOLA has some of the world's richest oil supplies but remains one of Africa's poorest countries. Although oil was discovered more than thirty years ago, little of the money has trickled down to the local population who live in extreme poverty.
Oil revenues were paid directly to the Angolan state oil company and ended up in the nation's capital, Luanda, where the country's one hundred 'best families' live in high style. An audit of the countries oil revenues by the International Monetary Fund showed that 4.2 billion dollars has vanished into thin air.
Chevron Texaco is now putting some of its own money into making sure that conditions improve in the communities where oil is discovered. They're investing in small local projects; making road improvements, training schoolteachers and providing better farming supplies. The end goal is to enable the poorest people to live independently into the future.