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Ecuador president-elect names businessman as energy minister

by Reuters
Thursday, 20 May 2021 17:31 GMT

QUITO, May 20 (Reuters) - Ecuador's President-elect Guillermo Lasso on Thursday named a businessman from a private agroindustrial and real estate conglomerate as the country's next energy minister, tasking him with tackling corruption in the Andean nation's oil sector.

Roberto Salas, an economist currently serving as Nobis' vice president, had also previously worked in countries including Chile, Costa Rica and Brazil, but does not have prior oil sector experience.

"I trust, Robert, that you will oversee an administration that fights against corruption, we will break the chains of corruption in the sale of Ecuadorean oil," Lasso, a conservative ex-banker who takes office on May 24, said in an event where he also announced other new ministers.

His comments come after last month, an employee of trading house Gunvor Group pleaded guilty to U.S. charges of involvement in a scheme to bribe Ecuadorean officials to win business from state-run oil company Petroecuador, part of a broader U.S. probe into merchant trading firms' relationships with Latin American state commodities companies.

Ecuador produces some 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, and oil exports are a key source of government revenue in the cash-strapped country which inked a $6.5 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last year.

Lasso also named Simon Cueva, an economist with experience as a researcher and consultant at several international organizations, as the country's future economy and finance minister. Cueva will be tasked with finding new sources of government revenue as the South American country seeks to recover from a pandemic-induced recession.

"We are facing a hard reality, but we should dig Ecuador out of the hole that we find ourselves in at this moment," Lasso said, stating that he would prioritize helping the 300,000 Ecuadoreans facing hunger. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia Writing by Luc Cohen, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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