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Oil Bribery And Violent Protests Rattle Ecuador

Moreno Reverses Fuel Subsidy Cut, Talks Underway

Ecuadorean President Lenín Moreno on Monday officially signed a decree reversing his own law to cut fuel subsidies after more than a week of increasingly violent protests against the measure, Reuters reported. Moreno said fuel prices will revert to prior levels until a new measure can be agreed upon that will be perceived as more fair to poor sectors of the Andean nation’s society while thwarting fuel smugglers, who sell the subsidized fuel abroad. The government and indigenous leaders on Sunday agreed to work on a new subsidy formula that helps vulnerable groups to afford fuel and public transportation. Nationwide strikes, led by indigenous groups, labor unions and social activists, had crippled the country’s vital oil sector, costing Moreno’s government at least $100 million in oil income, according to the report. Energy Minister Carlos Pérez told reporters he expected oil production to get back to normal “in about 15 days.” The longstanding fuel subsidy costs state coffers some $1.4 billion in revenue annually. In related news, Moreno’s government announced that, effective today, a previously announced 32 percent increase in public transport rates would revert to prices in place before Oct. 9, El Comercio reported.

Related: Russia Ready To Seize Control Of The World's Largest Oil Reserves

Ecuadorean Financial Advisor Pleads Guilty in Oil Bribery Case

A Miami-based financial advisor last Friday pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme that involved paying nearly $3 million in bribes to officials at Ecuador’s state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, The Wall Street Journal reported. Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda, a dual U.S. and Ecuadorean citizen, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and bribery laws in Ecuador. To conceal the bribe payments, Chatburn established Panamanian shell companies with Swiss bank accounts on behalf of two then-Petroecuador officials. The charge carries a 20-year statutory maximum sentence. Chatburn’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 18. To date, 10 individuals, including former Ecuadorean government officials, oil services contractors and financial advisors, have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in U.S. courts for their involvement in the Petroecuador bribery and money laundering schemes, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

By Latin America Energy Advisor

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