BOGOTA May 15 Colombia's state oil company
Ecopetrol on Monday said it reduced output in one of its key
production areas due to protests by residents who reject changes
to the company's hiring policy for local labor.
The protest forced the closure of 92 wells producing about
10,000 barrels of oil daily near the municipality of Acacias, in
central Meta province, and affected the Castilla and Chichimene
"The valves of several wells were opened, which resulted in
a crude spill that could not be controlled because demonstrators
prevented access by emergency crews," Ecopetrol said in a
The company also condemned the torching of a vehicle,
threats to workers and acts that prevented a supply helicopter
landing to leave food at one of the oil fields.
The government issued a decree that allows Ecopetrol to hire
workers from anywhere in the municipality of Acacias, while
protesters want jobs given only to residents in the area
immediately next to the fields.
Social protests, legal insecurity and guerrilla attacks are
frequent headaches for oil companies in Colombia. They have also
faced a sharp drop in oil prices in recent years.
Ecopetrol is the largest producer of crude in Colombia,
pumping 712,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day at the end of
the first quarter.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy;
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)