Lopez replaces Arboleda as Energy Minister in Ecuador

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Ecuador's President Lucio Gutierrez appointed Eduardo Lopez, the presidential representative on the board of state oil company Petroecuador, as energy minister on Monday following the resignation of Carlos Arboleda, the President's office said in a statement.

Although the statement said that Arboleda, a retired military colonel and personal friend of Gutierrez, resigned for "strictly personal reasons, "he made too many enemies on too many fronts and that has caused all his problems," a Petroeucador spokesperson told BNamericas.

"I have no accusations of dishonesty against him, but he doesn't understand a thing about oil," newspaper Expreso quoted the leader of the center-right Social Christian Party, Leon Febres Cordero, as saying.

Lopez knows Petroeucador well from having served on its board and he is trained as an oil engineer and businessman. "As a businessman, he has a different vision [from Arboleda] and we hope he will be more acceptable to private companies," the spokesperson said.

The President is scheduled to meet with Lopez next week to determine the country's short, medium and long-term energy strategies, the statement said.

Arboleda had been particularly criticized over his handling of a tender to boost crude production on four of Petroecuador's main oil producing Amazon fields. Unions and left-leaning political parties say the former minister was giving away the country's oil reserves too cheaply after he eliminated a minimum 35% state participation. The Left Democratic party filed a suit last week with the national constitutional court, alleging that the terms of the tender are unconstitutional.

Lopez will decide by Tuesday (Apr.13) whether to call off the tender now or receive bids as planned on April 20, the spokesperson said.

Gutierrez agreed with the companies on the bidding rules so it would be "a step back" to scrap the tender now, and it is more likely the government will receive bids and then decide whether to accept them or call for bids again, the spokesperson added.

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