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Ecuador Energy Minister resigns, as country starts talk over new oil contracts

Ecuador’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Bermeo resigned on Thursday, saying he had “completed a cycle,” just as the country begins the process of renegotiating oil block contracts with private companies.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso appointed Bermeo as minister of energy and non-renewable natural resources in June last year, charging him with the mission to build investments in mining and develop alternative energy sources.

“Honestly and realistically, I think I have completed a cycle regarding such a complex portfolio and it is time to return to my private professional activities,” Bermeo said in his resignation letter, which was confirmed by a ministry spokesman.

The move will leave Lasso “free…to choose a new collaborator that best suits the current circumstances of your administration,” Bermeo added.

The government did not immediately name a successor.

Bermeo’s resignation comes as the government pushes for private oil companies operating in the country to voluntarily switch their service contracts to new agreements based on participation.

The energy ministry said at the start of this month that it had received 23 requests by private companies to switch contracts.

Bermeo’s resignation comes shortly after Lasso appointed Luis Lara as the new defense minister, following the resignation of his predecessor. Ecuador faces instability across the country, which authorities blame on criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking.