Ecuador could halt oil production in 48 hours due to protests: official

Ecuador could suspend oil production in 48 hours if the nationwide indigenous protests and road blockades continue, the South American country's Ministry of Energy and Mines said on Sunday.

The hydrocarbon sector was adversely affected by road blockades and the seizure of oil wells in the country's Amazon region, it said.

"If this situation continues, the country's oil production would be suspended in 48 hours due to acts of vandalism, oil well taking-over and road closures. It has not been possible to transport the supplies and diesel necessary to maintain the operation," said Xavier Vera, Ecuadoran energy and mines minister.

The past two weeks of protests led to a decrease of oil production by more than 1.3 million barrels, with the Ecuadoran state oil company Petroecuador being the most affected with a loss of 1,061,875 barrels of crude oil.

Other oil companies operating in the country have reported a loss of 272,223 barrels of oil due to the current indigenous protests.

The protests have forced a closure of 1,176 oil wells, of which 996 belong to Petroecuador and 180 to other companies.

Crude oil is Ecuador's main export product, whose sales finance an important part of the state budget.

The protests were called by the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), the largest indigenous organization in the South American country, which is demanding a series of economic and social concessions from the government.

So far, five deaths have been reported and dozens of others have been injured in the protests. Enditem