Peru's Congress boosts state energy firm in populist turn
LIMA, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Lawmakers in Peru reversed course on state-owned Petroperu's role in upstream businesses and voted on Thursday to remove a legal barrier that kept it from taking control of the country's biggest oil block.
The populist turn comes as Petroperu supporters in the Amazonian city of Iquitos continued protests against the government's recent decision to grant Pacific Exploration and Production Corp a two-year service contract to keep oil flowing from block 192 after a 30-year concession failed to draw any bids in an auction last month.
The bill's success, a week after a similar measure failed to garner support, is the strongest sign yet of the tide of nationalist and left-leaning posturing that tends to precede presidential elections in Peru.
Peruvians will vote on a successor to President Ollanta Humala in April 2016.
The bill that passed 71-10 in Peru's single-chamber Congress late on Thursday does not in itself alter Pacific's contract.
Instead, it modifies a law that Humala had interpreted as barring Petroperu from investing in upstream activities to make an exception for block 192. That law also sailed through Congress in 2013.
Humala is expected to veto the new measure - his energy minister called the legislation "unconstitutional" - but Congress could push it past him in a second vote.
Petroperu has not produced oil in more than 20 years and mainly refines, stores and commercializes oil products.
Daily output from block 192 in the Amazonian region of Loreto is now about 12,000 barrels, a level Pacific has said it could ramp up. Continued...