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During the World Economic Forum, the Minister of Mines and Energy of Colombia, Irene Vélez, said that her country will not sign new oil and gas contracts because reserves for domestic consumption could last until 2042. This same information was echoed by the President of Colombia at the event.
However, the statement and the report upon which the decision was based have been labeled as misleading. Vice Minister Belizza Ruiz, who was asked to resign after opposing the report, explained that the data is part of a document that, she claims, was manipulated.
“Did Minister Velez lie? The answer is yes and I have proof. That proof is going to come out, don’t ask me for it today. I will produce it later. She did lie because the Hydrocarbons Directorate, which belongs to what used to be my office, in a WhatsApp communication told her the problems with the document and at the end she told me not to bring in the issue of reserves because we are going to get into trouble,” Ruiz said during an interview with CAMBIO.
Days later, the former vice-minister made public the chat where experts from the Ministry of Mines and Energy informed Minister Vélez that the report had methodological flaws and therefore it was not appropriate to make it public. However, the Minister relied on it to lie in Davos.
“The main technical and methodological difficulty of the document is that the level of gas reserves arises from a probabilistic analysis and in probabilistic studies, you one cannot add one plus one. Proven reserves are 90 percent probability, probable reserves are 50 percent and possible reserves are 10 percent. By counting on them, we have approximately 12 to 13 years of maximum gas reserves. But reserves are not static, they change and can increase; there is a greater probability of extracting this hydrocarbon to the extent that there are contracts that sustain and support the extraction of this hydrocarbon, not only public policy”, stated Ruiz.
The former vice minister has not been the only one to point out that the report is misleading. Businessmen and former ministers of the mining and energy sector have also done so based on internal reports and those of the State itself to prove it. Despite this, Minister Vélez affirmed in a press conference that she did not lie and that the report was made by two of her closest advisors and approved by her.
The former vice minister Ruiz clarifies that Colombia’s oil and gas reserves are for the next 12 years: “We are talking about 12 years if we take into account the three types of reserves. But if we are more rigorous and only take into account the first ones, the proven ones, we cannot talk about more than eight years. If we add the others, we can go to 11 years and so on”.
The report presented by Minister Vélez was not the only thing that made the former vice minister uncomfortable. Other irregularities are taking place in the Ministry of Mines of the Socialist Government. She insisted that she witnessed situations that she considers contrary to her values.
She said she agrees with Minister Irene Vélez when she stated that it is impossible to make a team with Ruiz. “In that sense, I agree with the minister. I think it was difficult for her to accept that I did not agree with what she was doing. She wanted people who are not part of the Ministry of Mines and Energy to participate on the boards of directors of the electricity companies. This is clearly not within the Ministry’s mandate,” she commented.
“She is a government official. I never understood that. And I asked her to explain it to me, because it is a genuine question and we cannot allow that. I cannot allow that. Although the electricity companies are in the hands of the State, I was the Vice-Minister of Energy and it is immoral to go over the law to appoint someone to a board of directors for a purpose that I do not know”, she added.
Resignation letter to Petro
Ruiz also explained that after her resignation she spoke with President Gustavo Petro and explained the irregularities that are occurring in the Ministry of Mines and Energy.
Finally, she said that it is necessary for the Colombian president to review the irregularities that are occurring in his ministerial team. “It is the first time that Gustavo Petro is president. He has already been mayor and has been in politics for a very long time, I think that making mistakes is not the problem. But to make a mistake and to continue making mistakes would be problematic. I think he is going to have the opportunity to review his different ministerial portfolios because what is going on in this ministry is not the only thing happening.”
What is behind the minister’s lies?
A few weeks after taking office as Minister of Mines, Vélez stated for the first time that no more exploration permits would be issued and the current ones would be reviewed, which caused a stir in the sector since hydrocarbons represent an important percentage of Colombia’s GDP.
After Petro’s government began to reestablish relations with Nicolás Maduro’s dictatorship, the minister asserted that there was no need to exploit hydrocarbons because when gas and oil were needed, they would be purchased from Venezuela.
Despite the fact that former vice-minister Ruiz informed Petro about the irregularities, Colombia’s president continues to support Irene Vélez, who has been questioned for not having sufficient expertise to hold the position.
As a result of the irregularities in the report, the Colombian Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation against Minister Vélez.
Williams Perdomo es periodista y escritor, especializado en las fuentes Política y Cultura.