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Environment

Ecuadorian troops win more power to end protests

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa (2nd L) points at a fuel camp in the Shushufindi area during an inspection visit to Petroleum Camps April 26, 2007. REUTERS/Government Palace/Handout

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador will increase the powers of security forces to break up demonstrations which can shut down output from oil facilities in the Amazon rainforest, leftist President Rafael Correa said on Friday.

Last month, protesting villagers, seeking a greater share of profits from companies drilling in their jungle region, blocked production of Brazil’s Petrobras for about four weeks.

“We will not allow any more invasions of oil installations or the blockage of roads,” said Correa while visiting the Amazon, home to an array of unique species.

The U.S.-educated economist added he understood the plight of poor jungle residents but that the rule of law had to be respected to safeguard the main revenue source of South America’s No 5 oil producer.

He said he would sign a decree to increase the military and police presence around oil facilities and allow those forces to shift protesters by force, Correa said.

Thousands of contract workers employed by state oil company Petroecuador have threatened to strike in May if the government does not improve working conditions.

Correa has vowed to renegotiate oil contracts with foreign companies working in the Andean nation.

Although his government does not predict a more radical approach to oil policy, some powerful Indian groups want Correa to consider oil nationalization.

Spain’s Repsol also operates in Ecuador, which produces around 530,000 barrels of oil per day.

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