Paraguay's de facto president, Federico Franco, traveled Wednesday to Miami for a "private" visit to discuss issues related to new oil prospects in the remote Chaco region.
The trip follows an invitation by the President Energy firm, one of the companies involved in a new round of oil prospecting in the Chaco, a presidential spokesperson told Efe.
Franco presided over an official ceremony to mark the start of that exploration work at the Boqueron block, located 450 kilometers (280 miles) northwest of Asuncion.
The companies involved said seismic prospecting will initially be carried out to determine the sites where six wells are to be drilled - probably in late 2013 - at an investment cost of $92 million.
They also said the land to be studied spans roughly 800,000 hectares (3,090 sq. miles).
Franco announced Nov. 26 the discovery of oil at the Pirity basin in the Chaco and said the find could turn the country into an oil producer.
But Deputy Mines and Energy Minister Hugo Cacace clarified the following day that exploration work is needed to confirm whether production would be commercially viable.
Chaco is a vast, remote, semi-arid region of north-central Paraguay that abuts parts of neighboring Argentina and Bolivia rich in fossil fuels.
The country has conducted exploration work in that region for years in a bid to end its total dependence on imports of crude derivatives and natural gas from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.
Most South American nations do not recognize Franco's government, which came to power after the controversial impeachment of elected President Fernando Lugo. EFE