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Right of Reply: Amazon Watch responds to Stansfield Smith

Adam Zuckerman, Environmental and Human Rights Campaigner for Amazon Watch, has requested a right of reply to the article by Stansfield Smith we recently published that was heavily critical of that NGO. We publish his reply, also posted in Marxmail, here.  We would like to note that Mr Zuckerman was an employee of Amazon Watch at the time it issued its article claiming government massacre of indigenous protesters about the events shown here.

Stansfield Smith’s personal attack against me is as misleading, erroneous and poorly researched as his hit piece on my employer, Amazon Watch, to which we replied here. Mr. Smith, who is the co-administrator of a Facebook group called “Friends of Ecuador–North America” –which serves as the home base for Smith’s ramblings–does not seem to have any interest in objectivity. His most recent attack is a mess of insinuations and conspiracy theories so convoluted that they would put a logic professor in a tizzy, so I will address his attacks one-by-one:

SMITH:“…Business Insider takes its disinformation story from another March 2013 Guardian article titled, “Ecuador auctions off Amazon to Chinese oil firms” an article which provides no evidence to support its title. This Guardian article also mostly relies on Zuckerman of Amazon Watch…Both articles never state Ecuador did actually sell Amazon rainforests to Chinese companies; they allege Ecuador “planned” to sell a third, though this “plan” is not corroborated by any evidence. Now almost three years later, no rainforest has yet to be sold to China, but the same concocted story is repeated…”

MY REPLY: Contrary to Smith’s insinuation, being quoted in an article does not mean that you either wrote it nor agree with every word in it. And why does Smith say that the article relies mainly on me? I have one quote in the article, which also quotes an indigenous leader and a letter from the seven indigenous nationalities of the south central Ecuadorian Amazon, all of whom condemned the oil round threatening their territory. It also quotes Ecuador’s then-Minister of Hydrocarbons who was promoting the oil auction.

And yes, the Ecuadorian government was in Beijing for a promotional road show and private meetings with Chinese government officials and oil company executives to try to auction off 20-year leases for oil drilling in millions of acres of the Amazon to Chinese oil companies. Before they deleted the website in the last week for their 11th Round Oil Auction (you can still see some information here), the Ecuadorian government publicized that then-Minister of Non Renewable Natural Resources Wilson Pastor and a “technical team from the Secretariat of Hydrocarbons” met with six different companies in Beijing, including Sinochem. As then-Minister of Non Renewable Natural Resources Wilson Pastor told a reporter from EFE, “The motive of our presence is to promote the 11th Oil Round, which we started this year in Colombia, the US, and France. We could not leave off China, which is our principal strategic ally in economic development.” Ultimately, the only company that signed a deal from the oil auction was Andes Petroleum, a conglomerate of Chinese state-owned CNPC and Sinopec. However, Amazon Watch did not single China out. In fact, the only road shows that we physically protested were not in Beijing but in Houston, Calgary, and Paris.

SMITH: This same story slamming Ecuador President Correa and China for forcibly displacing indigenous people and destroying the rainforest for the sake of oil profits reappeared in June-July 2015. This just happened to coincide with a rightwing (sic) protests in Ecuador against Correa, over his raising taxes on the rich.

MY REPLY: There is no mention in either the Business Insider story nor in the Guardian story of Correa “forcibly displacing indigenous people.” However, here is an article about indigenous and campesino communities in southern Ecuador denouncing government efforts to displace them to clear the way for more mining by Chinese mining company Ecuacorriente. In the Ecuadorian government’s “investment catalogue,” they are promoting a massive expansion of mining in indigenous territory in Ecuador.

Furthermore, I never spoke with the reporter at Business Insider, let alone the bloggers who quoted the Business Insider article years later without my knowledge. Smith’s insinuation is that I’m somehow colluding with right wing protesters, which is both baseless and libelous. In fact, when I lived in Ecuador I attended a rally supporting President Correa that was a response to the attempted coup by the military and the police. Amazon Watch was a major supporter of Correa’s Yasuní-ITT Initiative. Our founder was an official Ambassador for the proposal and we worked closely with the government of Ecuador on technical components of the proposal itself, as well as promotion and fundraising.

Smith’s piece proceeds to quote an “outrageous article” allegedly by Amazon Watch criticizing the response of the Ecuadorian government to Indigenous and civil society protests. But a simple reading of the “article” shows that it is a declaration from the indigenous Kichwa people of Sarayaku and not a statement from Amazon Watch. It begins with the following sentence: “The People of the Zenith, SARAYAKU, once again are present in solidarity with the call from distinct social sectors, the country’s indigenous communities and social movements to defend human dignity, nature and biodiversity against the devastating threat of oil exploitation in our lands.” They also sign it as the Kichwa People of Sarayaku and we note “English translation by Amazon Watch. Below is the original statement in Spanish.”

Smith then goes on to repeat desperate attacks from his last piece, all of which we have already debunked. Smith falsely accuses Amazon Watch of being “corporate-backed,” despite the facts that his own link disproves his point. He insinuates that we are in cahoots with the US government that supports the Trans Pacific Partnership despite the fact that for years we have opposed it very publicly, including in a 2010 letter to President Obama. Then he calls us “a leader in the struggle to make Chevron pay for its environmental crimes in Ecuador” before insinuating that we are working with Chevron on an “anti-Correa campaign [that] happens to coincide with the successes of Ecuador’s legal case against Chevron.” WHAT?! So we worked with our longest adversaries, a group that we’ve campaigned against for the last fourteen years and have nominated to the Corporate Hall of Shame multiple times, because we were upset that our campaign was too successful??!!

Defending yourself from Stansfield Smith’s personal attacks is like arguing with Donald Trump; you can’t win because he has no respect for facts or reality. I have to return to work–helping to advance the rights of indigenous peoples and protect the Amazon. I encourage Mr. Smith to do the same.


4 Comments

  1. Stansfield Smith says

    Reply by Stan Smith
    What Zuckerman writes here does not say much more than what they wrote previously, to which I replied to on TeleSur.
    I do not find what he writes (above) in response to what his quotes of what I wrote actually addresses what he quotes from me above. He simply tries to change the subject to asserting I said things I didn’t say.

    Below is a response I wrote on TeleSur to Amazon Watch’s response to my article:
    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Amazon-Watch-Campaign-Against-Ecuadors-Revolution-A-Reply-20160217-0030.html

    My Reply: In my whole original article, which was edited by TeleSur, I provide the references to show Amazon Watch being corporate backed.

    Amazon Watch: Smith’s piece proceeds to allegedly quote an “outrageous article” by Amazon Watch criticizing an Ecuadorian government crack-down on protests by indigenous peoples and civil society.

    Reply: I wrote the following, which is completely accurate, “Perhaps Amazon Watch’s most outrageous article was one in support of the right-wing backed anti-Correa protests in August 2015…”

    I do not know if someone from Amazon Watch wrote the entire article, part of it, or none of it. They don’t say. And contrary to what they assert in their response, I don’t say either.
    What is important is that they do post it on their website as an “Urgent Action,” and they obviously fully endorsed its contents. And they still endorse it, and we notice they make no attempt to deny what I wrote about it – that it was deliberate disinformation.
    Moreover, the hatchet job title of the article is entirely Amazon’s Watch creation: “Ecuadorian Government Violates Human Rights and the Constitution While police massacre indigenous protesters and citizens, the Government of Rafael Correa dances in the Presidential plaza”

    As far as the Yasuni-ITT initiative is concerned –

    My Reply: I quoted them from their website “Correa’s own contradictory policies and mismanagement of the initiative may have been its ultimate undoing.”
    It is not that some vague “international community” that “failed” – the Western governments refused to support the agreement, and these unsubstantiated claims of Correa’s poor management of the Yasuni Initiative administration had very little to do with that.
    We might as well say the NY police “failed” to arrest Eric Garner properly, but that it was his poor self-management that was ultimately responsible for him being strangled to death.

    AW: The article also fails to mention our years of work to hold Chevron accountable for one of the worst oil disasters on the planet in the Ecuadorian Amazon

    My Reply: In my unedited article I did state: “…US NGOs such as Amazon Watch, which is sullying its well-deserved reputation as a leader in the struggle to make Chevron pay for its environmental crimes in Ecuador.”

    AW: And does anyone believe Smith’s claim that China doesn’t intervene in the domestic affairs of the countries it lends to? Why then, for example, did Ecuador just give a Chinese state-run oil company two Amazonian oil blocks

    My Reply:They again repeat the anti-Correa, anti-China propaganda my article criticized. Ecuador did not “give” China part of the Amazon. Nor did it even sell part of the Amazon to China. Oil exploration rights were auctioned and this Chinese company won, paying $80 million. This is Chinese foreign intervention? If so, it would be good if the US government followed the Chinese method.

    see Counterpunch.org or DissentVoice or Links for my entire article.

    stansfieldsmith100@gmail.com

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  2. Hmm … I looked up Amazon Watch on Sourcewatch.org and found that in 2002, the funders for this NGO included these organisations:
    – Foundation for Deep Ecology (apparently funded by … Wal-Mart)
    – National Wildlife Federation (who in 2008 received $1 million in funding from the Walton Family Foundation, itself founded by members of the Walton family who own Wal-Mart)
    – Rainforest Action Network (who in 2005 took money from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund , chaired by Richard Rockefeller who is also Advisory Board Chair for MSF).

    Strange also that a number of AW’s Board members also sit on the boards of various other environmental organisations. One starts to wonder how very incestuous all these eco-NGOs might be.

    AW bears watching.

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