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Corporate Prisoner

Ralph speaks to human rights lawyer, Steven Donziger, who represented the indigenous people of Ecuador and won a multi-billion dollar judgement against Chevron for polluting the Ecuadorian rain forest in what is known as the “Amazon Chernobyl.” So why has he been held under house arrest in New York for nearly years? Tune in to find out.

Steven Donziger is an advocate, writer, and public speaker who specializes in addressing corporate malfeasance and human rights abuses. He was a member of the legal team that won a landmark $9.5 billion judgement against Chevron for the environmental cleanup of an area of the Ecuadorian Amazon. He is one of many from that team now fighting, on their own behalf, against Chevron’s retaliatory lawsuits in US courts.

“I first went to Ecuador… with a team of lawyers and doctors to investigate what we were told was the world’s worst oil-related catastrophe, in the northern part of Ecuador’s Amazon. Where Texaco had operated for 25 years, and had designed a system to deliberately pollute the environment as a way to lower its production costs. This was not an accident. This was not like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. This was a system designed to pollute.”

Steven Donziger Human Rights Lawyer


“What Chevron has been doing to Steve Donziger, it’s not just an environmental suit. It’s a human rights suit affecting the health and safety of thousands of indigenous peoples in the Amazonian area of Ecuador.”

Ralph Nader

“There was obviously a mass poisoning going on of this entire region and all the little rural communities in this area. The roads were filled with oil because Texaco would suck some of the oil out of the pits and dump it along the roads to keep the dust down.”

Steven Donziger Human Rights Lawyer

“Once [the legal battle] shifted to New York City, the key ally of Chevron was Judge Lewis Kaplan…  Judge Kaplan proceeded to do such partisan maneuvers and denial of due process, the likes of which I’ve rarely read about in American judicial history.”

Ralph Nader

“I have a right under US law, under international law, to a neutral fact finder and an unbiased judge and a disinterested prosecutor, and I have none of that… Go figure. It’s just unbelievable the interconnectedness of these various interests in a situation where the law requires utter neutrality.”

Steven Donziger Human Rights Lawyer

Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 368 Transcript (Right click to download)


  1. ross mann says:

    ive been following this story for a while, great expose, ralph, bruce, steve and david et al. talk about a travesty of justice, this is outrageous.

    • David Faubion says:

      Quite right you are Ross Mann. I would only add ‘and a shame on our country’ after your use of the word “outrageous.” To even consider the idea of holding the Human Rights Attorney Steven Donziger as a corporate political prisoner in of all judicial districts: the Southern District of NY–is to consider a dumbfounding and foreboding political future. But when you look at what Chevron did to Ecuador and its people, then the torture and wringing out of Mr. Gonsinger’s cash assets follows in direct sequence. It is the same godawful criminal ethics as applied to the many in Ecuador and to the one and his family in New York.


    WHAT WAS THE PHONE NUMBER FOR THE NYT NEWS DESK (212) ???-???. Please supply….

  3. kathy gilbert says:

    Heard the Nader interview just now on KPFA. Incredible story.

  4. Ken Prewitt says:

    I head this Saturday, and I’m still shocked regarding due process concerning a misdemeanor either civil or criminal. Further how in the hell is a case “contracted out” for prosecution to an entity that has in the past supported one of the participants in the suit? I’m not a lawyer but could someone explain this concept in a democratic country… I would understand this in an autocracy. Like an earlier post, Washington Post and or CNN should be interested in this.

  5. Bonnie Carol Case says:

    Now, imagine they”re white.

  6. Annie says:

    Thanks for all you do 💕

  7. Jeff Story says:

    Thank you for covering this terrible case. It may be futile, but the Court for Inter American Justice could hear it, as well as The Hague. The crimes against the indigenous people in Ecuador deserve to be heard at the International level. The Spanish courts have helped the Argentine family members of the US backed Junta. If nothing else, the US deserves to be shamed at the court of last resort.

  8. Troy says:

    I will be looking into this and see what I can do on my end Ralph.


    • Stephanie Collins says:

      Damn it Ralph I’ve been trying to get your attention since breaking through power 2016.
      What was due on the Senate floor June 23 2016.
      Clarence Ditlow
      Paul Sheridan
      Stephanie Collins (victim owned discovery)
      Seatback collapse FMVSS 207
      Whistleblower law based on victim owned discovery Mark Stone AB889
      Reporting requirements on FMVSS 207
      What happened June 23 2016?
      GUN CONTROL SIT IN!!!!!!
      On Oct 8th 2016 California AG Kamala Harris rejects any investigation into victim owned discovery.
      Edward Markey in reporting requirements 2020 puts FOIA 552(b) gagging by courts in reporting requirements.

  9. Richard H. Allan says:

    In October 1967 I finished a 6-month student exchange in Ecuador spending a week adjacent to these indigenous peoples domain in the Amazon. The people were very kind and welcoming and lived in a pristine environment. The story has sickened me from the moment I learned of it. A crime against humanity, a crime against mother earth. There must be consequences.

    • RS says:

      I just listened to the podcast, Pushback Talks, with guest Sarah Chayes, author of “On Corruption in America…”. She comes to a conclusion that I also arrived at some time ago. It’s a large, interconnected network that prays on the earths resources and “the little people”. One theory she offers that I had not considered is that it is this corruption that causes the people to react by becoming extremists.

  10. News Buoy says:

    Excerpted from PRWeek: “When Chevron faced one of its most important reputational issues ever, the company called Morgan Crinklaw.

    He was appointed to his current role last year at a turning point in a 20-year legal battle in Ecuador where the global energy giant was immersed in a $19 billion lawsuit just months before the racketeering trial that would uncover extensive evidence of fraud in the case against the company.

    Colleagues say the leadership he displayed during the seven-week trial against US lawyer Steven Donziger – the man behind the plaintiffs’ lawsuit in Ecuador – “cannot be understated.”…He developed a flawless communications strategy, from ensuring the media had all the background on the case before going into the trial, to communicating the significance of the judgment.”

    Here he is concerned with distance learning repression in CA as a parent, or has he been hired?

  11. C. Archibald says:

    The “law” is clearly now merely corporate property. Add this to the voter suppression going on anywhere Republicans -all corporate-owned themselves- and there can be n doubt that there is no justice in America.

    Yanis Varoufakis recently gave a talk during which he described what he was told by a corporate asset during a meeting with the EU; ‘elections cannot be allowed to interfere with economic policy.” @ 1:20.

    A recent news story reports that Senator Mitch McConnell has been instructed by his corporate donors not to allow any increase in the power of American voters under the law to impede the application of greater corporate control over the economy AND the nation.

    Jeff Bezos and the abuse of his work force goes on unchallenged by the Biden Administration, opening the door for any employer to threaten any employee’s livelihood if things don’t go as the boss desires..

    I no longer have any faith that this nation can avoid a dystopian authoritarian dictatorship. The only good thing for me is that I only have a few years remaining on this rock to get to “enjoy” all the “good things” corporations will bring us as they take everything else.