The future for Colombia’s petroleum industry is in question after the country’s President Juan Manuel Santos announced last month that he will no longer support a $30 billion oil project.
The announcement, which was made at a ceremony in Caracas, came amid reports that Santos has agreed to an extension of the concession for oil and gas exploration in the countrys western region of the Andes.
Santos, who has faced widespread criticism over the project, has been in power since 2002 and won a landslide victory last year after running for the presidency on a promise to end decades of corruption and allow for a transition to a democratic government.
While Santos is widely seen as a moderate who can reform the country, the announcement of a concession for exploration and production in the western region could prove controversial.
Santos announced in March that he was cancelling the concession and was moving forward with the exploration project, but he is expected to push ahead with drilling again in a bid to secure more oil revenue.
“We are going to continue drilling and producing oil,” Santos told the public during the ceremony.
“The oil will be made available for sale.
And we will continue the development of the resources that are already there.”
The announcement, made during a ceremony attended by the presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia, comes amid a growing number of reports that the president has agreed an extension for oil exploration in Colombia’s western region, where Santos is trying to diversify away from oil exports.
The decision to cancel the concession was also met with criticism from opposition leaders.
“This is a continuation of the policies of the Colombian government,” Pablo Kuczynski, an opposition leader, told AFP news agency.
“It’s a betrayal of the promises made by Santos, and it’s a clear indication of the continuation of Santos policies.”
“A great country is one that does not have a war,” Kucynski added.
“A great nation does not export oil.”
Critics say Santos has made the decision to pursue oil exploration for economic reasons rather than to boost Colombia’s foreign relations.
A report from Colombia’s national oil company (COPEX) said that Santos was seeking an extension to the project after agreeing a new contract with the Colombian company Nexen, which is the country s largest oil company.
The extension, which has been estimated to be worth around $2 billion, is a move that could further undermine Santos efforts to diversifying away from petroleum exports.
The decision to end the concession comes at a time when Colombia is struggling to meet the expectations of its international partners, as the country has been under severe political pressure since the election of President Juan Santos in 2002.
The country’s government is currently struggling to get through an international conference on the peace process with Colombia’s rival guerrilla groups, which the government says will help end the conflict.
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