Chevron is enemy of Ecuador: Correa

QUITO, Pichincha (AFP) - Ecuador's firebrand leftist President Rafael Correa lambasted US oil giant Chevron as an enemy for allegedly besmirching his country as part of a lengthy court battle over Amazon pollution.

Last year an Ecuadoran court ordered Chevron to pay US$19 billion (S$24.1 billion) for polluting the rain forest.

The case is still alive and Mr Correa says the company has spent US$400 million and hired an army of hundreds of lawyers to discredit the government and get the ruling overturned on appeal in the country's highest court.

In a weekly address on Saturday, Mr Correa referred to Chevron as "that enemy of our country." "We are going to tell Latin America what Chevron has done in our country to shirk its responsibility, with that criminal campaign that is waging against Ecuador," Mr Correa said.

Chevron has never worked directly in Ecuador but inherited the pollution lawsuit when it acquired Texaco in 2001.

Texaco operated in Ecuador from 1964 to 1990 and after leaving it was sued by indigenous groups in pollution-related legal proceedings that have dragged on for nearly 20 years.

Mr Correa is strong on protecting the environment and six years ago came up with a novel plan: have rich countries pay US$3.6 billion into a trust fund for Ecuador in exchange for its not drilling in the Amazon.

But this week Mr Correa finally abandoned the plan because so little money had been contributed.