REPSOL YPF Violates Human Rights and Pollutes the Environment

The Spanish transnational corporation REPSOL YPF is being questioned for its social, environmental and cultural effects on the peoples and ecosystems of the regions where it operates. The company is accused of a series of human rights violations, for its social and cultural impacts on indigenous peoples, for the pollution of the environment and of water sources, for tax fraud, loss of biodiversity and deforestation in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Repsol YPF is one of Latin America’s largest oil and gas corporations and a leading hydrocarbon corporation. It operates in 14 Latin American countries. In this session of the Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal in Lima, cases on the impacts of Repsol YPF’s operations in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador will be filed. The effects of the company’s operations in Colombia have already been analyzed during the Session on oil corporations of the Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal – Colombian charter (Bogota, 2007).

In Argentina the governments have allowed transnational corporations to control the oil market since 1989, handing over the country’s energy sovereignty. Repsol YPF’s largest field in Argentina is in Loma de la Lata (Neuquén), where the Mapuche communities Paynemil and Kaxipayiñ live. The company’s operations have contributed to the reduction of grazing land area, to the loss and fragmentation of natural areas, the extinction of medicinal plants and the disappearance of native species such as guanacos and choiques. In 1995, pollution with condensed gas in the freatic layers was found in the Paynemil community, causing the chronic intoxication of the residents. Hydrocarbons cause vertigo, weakness, nervousness, pain in extremities and dermatitis, irritability, headaches, insomnia, disturbed dreams, fatigue and spontaneous abortions.

In Bolivia, the company has been operating in the country for over ten years. This has resulted in a constant damage of different kinds: In environmental terms, the company is accused of over ten cases of pollution and environmental degradation. In legal terms, Repsol YPF acted with an illegal and unconstitutional contract until May 1st, 2007. In financial terms, under joined venture agreements it failed to fulfill the investment levels promised and it sped up the depreciation rate to avoid paying a tax on profits. In operational terms, the company has incurred in smuggling and tax fraud.

Furthermore, the transnational corporation operates in Communal Lands of Itika Guasu origin, where it entered indigenous territory without carrying out a previous consultation under ILO’s 169 Convention, which became law in Bolivia in 19991. It directly or indirectly committed the following human rights violations: discrimination of Guarani workers (who lack social security and earn lower salaries); pollution and wearing out of water sources; systematic logging without reforestation; change of behavioral patterns; and promotion of new settlements that endanger the collective property of the territory.

In Ecuador, Repsol YPF is the concessionarie in the Ecuadorian Amazon within Yasuni National Park and the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve. Its activities have polluted water, soils, have caused the loss of biodiversity, deforestation, soil erosion and noise in the protected areas. It has also caused social and cultural impacts to the Waorani people and the peoples who live in voluntary isolation like Tagaeri and Taromenane, ancient owners of this land. The impacts include the displacement of communities, changing of the cultural patterns, creating dependence on the company, health damages, division of the communities and labor conflicts. Other consequences of the presence of Repsol YPF in the Ecuadorian region are the extraction of wood to build roads and camps, tax evasion or having turned the Ecuadorian Army into an “armed group” at the service of the company.

REPSOL YPF has incurred in many violations of laws on the responsibility of transnational corporations, including the following: the UN rules on corporate social responsibility, ILO’s 169 Convention, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the national constitution of Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Key issues: Natural Resources and Neocolonialism

Denouncing organizations: Acción Ecológica (Ecuador), Asamblea del Pueblo Guaraní Itika Guasu (Bolivia), Centro de Documentación e Información de Bolivia – CEDIB, Centro de Estudios Aplicados a los Derechos Ec. Soc. y Cult. CEADESC (Bolivia), Ecologistas en Acción / Observatorio de Multinacionales en América Latina – OMAL- Paz con Dignidad, Ekologistak Martxan (Estado español), Foro Ciudadano por la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos -FOCO/ Fundación de Investigaciones Sociales y Políticas – FISyP (Argentina)