Ecuador Govt Wants To Finish Oil Contract Talks Before Vote

The administration of President Rafael Correa said Monday it wants to finish renegotiating oil contracts with private sector companies before a referendum takes place on a new Constitution.

A Constituent Assembly is aiming to finish work on a new Constitution by May 24, with a referendum scheduled for 45 days after the document is complete.

"The renegotiations must be finished as soon as possible, before the referendum," Mining and Oil Minister Galo Chiriboga told reporters Monday.

Talks officially began Monday with the private companies.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, (PBR), Repsol YPF (REP) and several smaller companies have agreed to start a renegotiation of their contracts.

The Correa government is looking to change current participation contracts to service contracts.

Last October, Correa increased the state's take of extraordinary oil company profits to 99% from 50%.

The companies have said that this decree makes their businesses unprofitable, and some have started legal proceedings.

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