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Texaco protest article
By James Pierpoint HOUSTON, May 14 (Reuter) - A clutch of
activists protested outside the Texaco Inc <TX.N> shareholder
meeting in Houston on Tuesday to publicize concerns about the
international oil company's environmental record and activities in
Burma, where human rights violations continue to be documented.
But shareholders at the meeting roundly voted down a proposal
to end Texaco's operations in Burma, and rejected proxies
soliciting increased shareholder oversight of operations in
countries with proven records of human rights violations.
Texaco was one of four U.S. oil companies targeted by human
rights activists for its operations in Myanmar, better known as
Burma. Unocal Corp <UCL.N>, Atlantic Richfield Co <ARC.N> and
Halliburton Co <HAL.N> also have operations there, and soft-drink
maker PepsiCo Inc <PEP.N> recently withdrew from the country.
A military regime in power in Burma since 1988 has been
accused of using forced labor in military campaigns, arresting
political dissidents and bulldozing villages in the path of
Texaco, Unocal and Total SA <TOTF.PA> pipelines being cut through
southern Burma to Thailand.
"It is the outrageous abuse of human rights in that country
which makes it unsuitable in our view for Texaco to do business
there," said Sister Denise Ann Clifford of Houston, criticizing
Texaco's policy of "constructive engagement" in working with what
she called an oppressive military regime.
"There is no evidence that Texaco's behind the scenes approach
has made any difference." said Clifford, a nun with the Sisters of
Loretto order. "Texaco's very presence lends a kind of
international legitimacy to an illegal government."
Activists also protested what they called inadequate efforts
to clean up oil and industrial wastes left behind in Ecuador's
Amazon rainforest, where Texaco produced crude oil under a
concession with the government from 1964 to 1992.
"Sixteen point eight million gallons of oil were spilled in
that area over the course of twenty years. That's about 50
percent more than Exxon Valdez," said Shannon Wright, an activist
with the Rainforest Action Network in San Francisco and one of
about two dozen protesters outside the meeting.
Texaco is on a push to increase gasoline retail sales in
Ecuador but is the focus of a consumer boycott and target of a
$1.5 billion class-action suit filed in a U.S. federal court near
the company's White Plains, N.Y. headquarters.
Senator Isauro Puente Davila, president of Ecuador's
congressional environmental commission, said the national congress
may launch an investigation into a September 1995 agreement with
Texaco to clean up the drilling fields.
Texaco Chairman Alfred DeCrane said remediation efforts are
underway in Ecuador. "We believe that Texaco has met all of its
obligations and has volunteered to do additional work, which is
also underway," he said.
Tight security kept activists from entering a packed ballroom
where DeCrane was leading his final meeting at the helm of Texaco.
Before retiring on July 1, he will hand over the chairman's office
to Vice Chairman Peter Bijur.