Ecuador secures oil assets ahead of border action
Quito, 13 April (Argus) — Ecuador is securing its northern oil installations in anticipation of joint military action with Colombia to snuff out the alleged perpetrators of the kidnapping and murder of two journalists and their driver.
"At the request of the Government of Ecuador, the Defense Ministry of Colombia and its military and police high commands are in our country to immediately initiate coordinated actions in the border zone," Ecuador´s president Lenin Moreno said today after confirming the deaths of the Ecuadorean reporting team.
The three were kidnapped on 26 March, allegedly by a group of dissidents from the former Colombian guerrilla group Farc, which signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016. The group, the Oliver Sinisterra Front, declined to participate in the peace deal.
Since the kidnapping, Ecuador started to reinforce security around its oil and electricity installations in the border area, mobilizing army engineers.
Following Moreno´s national address today, Ecuador´s armed forces and state-owned PetroEcuador management are meeting to expand security, a PetroEcuador official tells Argus. Among the strategic energy installations in the area are the 110,000 b/d Esmeraldas refinery and its related Termoesmeraldas power station, the 360,000 b/d Transecuadorean (SOTE) crude pipeline and the national power grid (SNI).
The Ecuadorean military is also guarding all PetroEcuador retail fuel stations in the border area.
Upstream, the military is beefing up security around state-owned PetroAmazonas´ acreage. The company´s northern acreage includes blocks 11, 50, 51, 58 and 59.
On the Colombian side, there was no immediate comment from state-controlled Ecopetrol. Canada´s Gran Tierra and UK independent Amerisur, which are among the private-sector oil companies that have operations in southern Colombia, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The incident draws attention to the spillover of Colombia´s long-running armed conflicts into neighboring Ecuador and Venezuela. Under Ecuador´s previous government of Rafael Correa, Quito tolerated the presence of guerrilla groups from Colombia inside its borders. This drew a controversial attack by the Colombian military inside Ecuador in 2008.
Moreno, who took office last year, has shunned the previous government´s nationalist economic policies and is welcoming back foreign investment. Cooperation with Colombia has been restored.
Armed groups from Colombia, especially ELN, regularly take refuge in Venezuela across Colombia´s eastern border. ELN, which routinely targets oil installations in Colombia, recently resumed peace talks with the Colombian government. The talks are taking place in Quito.
Ecuador is offering $100,000 for information leading to the arrest of "Guacho", the Ecuadorean who is believed to lead the Oliver Sinisterra Front that is blamed for the crime against the reporting team.