Latin America’s state-owned oil and gas sector is facing unprecedented challenges caused by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting collapse in commodity prices and crude oil demand, as well as related financial and political pressures. These conditions, in addition to persistent administrative challenges and long-term debt liabilities, have caused Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) production to drop to the lowest levels per citizen since the 1920s in Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proven crude reserves. Political upheaval has also impacted Petroecuador, Pemex, and YPF, although the latter has announced plans to invest $1.5 billion to ramp up the output of shale gas field Vaca Muerta.

The latest decision by President Jair Bolsonaro to replace Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco with a former army general with little experience in the oil industry harkens back to Brazil's history of political meddling in fuel pricing. Colombia’s Ecopetrol stands out as a bright spot in the region. Among the reforms enacted over the last decade was the listing of 11% of the company’s shares, which provided an infusion of capital that helped the company enlist better managers. To boost reserves, it has teamed up with international oil majors to invest in fracking and in upstream activities in other countries.

Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy together with the Columbia Global Centers hosted a panel of exceptional policy experts to analyze the different economic, political, and social dynamics at play in the main oil and gas producing countries in Latin America.


  • Dr. Thomas J. Trebat, Director, Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro


  • Rosanety Barrios, Independent Analyst 
  • Philippe Benoit, Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA
  • Dr. Mauricio Cárdenas, Visiting Senior Research Scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University SIPA
  • Dr. Fernanda Delgado, Professor and Strategic Advisor, FGV Energia