QUITO, May 22 (Reuters) - President Rafael Correa on Thursday named a navy admiral with little oil experience the new chief of the state oil company, which is struggling to lift Ecuador’s dwindling output.
Luis Jaramillo, a former submarine commander, replaced another navy officer who resigned after the company, Petroecuador, slashed its annual output target this week due to operational failures in the oil-exporting OPEC member.
Correa says the military brings needed order to a company he says is plagued with corruption and has seen its production drop in recent years.
“The Navy’s work in Petroecuador has the government’s full support,” the energy ministry said in a statement.
Analysts say the military lacks the expertise to improve productivity and overhaul Petroecuador, which has been considered too closely tied to ruling political parties.
Correa, a popular former economy minister, seeks to increase state control over the oil sector, which is a major source of revenue for the Andean country.
The leftist ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wants to downgrade the status of foreign oil companies from joint-operators to only contractors so that the state can keep all the oil they extract.
Ecuador, South America’s fifth-largest oil producer, has an output of around 500,000 bpd, nearly half of which is pumped by private companies.
Relations between Ecuadorean presidents and the military are typically delicate.
The military plays a large role in some areas of the economy and was pivotal in the ouster of some of Correa’s predecessors.
But Correa has used the political capital of his high approval ratings to exert increasing civilian influence over the armed forces while largely avoiding alienating them by ordering pay hikes and arms purchases, political analysts say. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Saul Hudson, editing by Matthew Lewis)