Ecuador's Lasso names lawyer Santos as new energy minister

World leaders address the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York City

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso on Monday named lawyer Fernando Santos as the country's new energy minister, the third person to hold the post since Lasso took office in May 2021.

Santos, an experienced oil industry lawyer and former minister, takes over from Xavier Vera, who resigned on Friday amid an investigation into accusations he arranged jobs at state oil company Petroecuador in exchange for bribes. Vera denies any wrongdoing.

Santos pledged to increase national oil production, a key goal of the Lasso administration, from current levels of 493,000 barrels per day (bpd).

"You Mr. President have fixed a goal of raising production and we are going to make every effort," Santos said during his swearing in. "Today we must extract difficult (oil) with scientific means and techniques that require capital and technology."

"We must call to private companies with well-negotiated contracts with win-win conditions," he added.

Lasso has said he wants oil output to reach 750,000 bpd by the time his term ends in 2025.

Santos previously served as minister of energy for the South American country in 1987 and was a ministerial advisor in 2021. He has also worked as the head of legal affairs at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

It is necessary to move pipelines in the country's Amazon region, where erosion has caused oil spills, Santos said, and make improvements to refining work.

Santos said he agrees with the approval of a community consultation law for extractive projects, one of the demands of anti-government protesters who stymied oil exports earlier this year, but that already-signed contracts must be respected.

"We must make people see that the benefits of mining development can be mutual for the population and the country in general," he said.

(Reporting by Alexandra ValenciaWriting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Kim Coghill and Chris Reese)