QUITO – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said Saturday that he is studying a legal reform allowing the expulsion of foreign oil companies that sue the country before international institutions.
“If (those companies) sue us, let them sue us...but they can get out of the country. I’m not going to let these oligarchies sue the country while they continue to exploit our national riches,” Correa said during his regular Saturday report.
The president said that this week he met with Mines and Petroleum Minister Germanico Pinto to evaluate the challenges facing those two industries, the contracts that the government has with domestic and foreign companies, and the lawsuits that some have presented before international institutions.
He was referring to the complaints filed by foreign oil companies against Ecuador before the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, or ICSID, and asked, “How is it that there are companies that are suing us but keep working here?”
“If they sue us, fine, but they can get out of the country,” he repeated.
“We’re studying the legal considerations” for imposing those measures, the president said, adding that he was not going to put up with “so much disrespect to the country.”
Oil companies have “filled their pockets with money” from contracts that in the past guaranteed them a price for crude of $15 per barrel on the average but only left $3 for Ecuador, Correa said.
The president deplored the fact that in the past the distribution of the extraordinary profits the oil companies received was never revised when the price of crude soared on the international markets.
He recalled that he imposed a rule obliging the companies to hand over to the government up to 99 percent of their extraordinary profits, but that in reply the oil companies sued Ecuador before ICSID.
According to Correa, these firms “are not on the same level as the government...it’s not an equal-to-equal relationship: it’s the relationship of a sovereign state, owner of the oil, with a company that comes to extract our oil.”
“That means it’s more like the dependent relationship of employer and employee,” he said.