UPDATE 4-Ecuador removes OPEC chief as oil minister-sources

* Ecuador removes OPEC President Pinto as energy minister

* Finance minister Viteri, key in debt default also out

* No major shift in OPEC policy seen with new president
(Adds context on oil negotiations paragraph 4, 12)

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, April 20 (BestGrowthStock) – Ecuador’s President Rafael
Correa on Tuesday removed OPEC president Germanico Pinto from
his post as Ecuador’s energy minister in a cabinet reshuffle
that also cost the country’s finance minister her job.

Correa accepted the resignation of Finance Minister Elsa
Viteri, who vacated her office on Tuesday, and the president
also told Pinto by telephone his resignation had been accepted,
sources close to the two officials told Reuters.

Correa had already changed nine ministers this month after
telling the whole cabinet to submit resignation letters. He has
been accepting their resignations one by one. The key Economic
Policy and Strategic Sectors minister also was replaced.

The resignation of the country’s top energy official came
as Ecuador makes sluggish progress on renegotiating oil
contracts with foreign companies. Correa says he is prepared to
nationalize foreign oil operations if companies do not sign new
contracts favoring the government. [ID:nN20116124]

Pinto was current OPEC chief, a post that rotates on an
annual basis among member countries. The position is mostly
symbolic and lacks significant policy-making weight.

Pinto is currently on a trip to South Korea, where he was
informed of the decision to accept his resignation, one of his
advisors said, adding he may be replaced by Wilson Pastor, the
head of an Ecuadorean state-run oil company Petroamazonas.

“Politicians change all the time, but oil policy tends to
turn as easily as an oil tanker, so it would be surprising to
see any major policy shifts,” said Lawrence Eagles, head of
commodities research at JP Morgan.

“For OPEC, because Ecuador is such a small country, the
change is insignificant.”

Viteri, like Correa a leftist economics professor, was
unpopular with Wall Street for her central role in the nation’s
2008 default of $3.2 billion in global bonds.

“The departure of Minister Viteri should not be seen as the
harbinger of a more conventional and orthodox policy approach
as macro policy is and will continue to be ultimately defined
by President Correa,” Goldman Sachs analyst Alberto Ramos
said.

European-trained economist Correa took office in January
2007 and his popularity rose above 70 percent in his first
years in office as he redistributed wealth to the poor and took
a tough stance against foreign investors.

But his ratings have sunk below 50 percent since, largely
because of a sluggish economy as the country’s oil revenues
were battered by the global economic slump and a fall in
petroleum demand.
Growth Stocks

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Frank Jack
Daniel; Editing by Andrew Hay, David Gregorio and Carol
Bishopric)

UPDATE 4-Ecuador removes OPEC chief as oil minister-sources