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Ecuador warns protests could shut down oil production within days

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Ecuador’s Department of Energy warned Sunday that oil production had reached “critical” levels and could be halted completely within 48 hours if protests and roadblocks in the crisis-ravaged South American country continue.

Nearly two weeks of indigenous-led protests against rising fuel prices and living costs have paralyzed transportation in Ecuador, with roadblocks in 19 of the oil-rich country’s 24 provinces.

“Oil production is at a critical level,” the ministry said in a statement.

“If this situation continues, the country’s oil production will be halted in less than 48 hours as vandalism, the seizure of oil wells and road closures have prevented the transportation of equipment and diesel needed to keep operations going.”

“Today the numbers show a more than 50 percent drop” in production, which was about 520,000 barrels per day before the protests, it said.

Ecuador’s economy relies heavily on oil revenues, with 65 percent of its output exported in the first four months of 2022.

An estimated 14,000 protesters are taking part in the nationwide demonstrations, most of them in Quito.

In the capital, where prices have risen, shortages are already being reported.

The violence between police and protesters is said to have killed five and injured around 500 people, according to various sources.

Production Minister Julio Jose Prado said public-private economic losses from the protests totaled $500 million on Sunday.

“Every extra day of downtime represents $40 to $50 million lost,” he said.

Total losses since the protests began include 8.5 million gallons of milk worth $13 million, as well as $90 million worth of agricultural produce and livestock.

The tourism industry has since seen cancellations rise to 80 percent, with losses of at least $50 million.

In addition, “in the floriculture industry, a 12-day shutdown resulted in $30 million in losses and damage to trucks and farms,” ​​Prado said.

(AFP)

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