Ecuador's defense minister has resigned amid a mounting crisis over protests which have crippled oil production and forced the country to ask Venezuela for a loan of crude oil.

Ecuadorean officials say Defense Minister Solon Espinoza stepped down Friday and was replaced by retired army General Oswaldo Jarrin. The reason for the resignation was not clear.

The move comes as a state of emergency remains in effect for the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana, where protesters have massed, demanding new contract negotiations with foreign oil firms.

They also have called for increased spending on infrastructure and social programs.

The demonstrations forced the state-owned oil company, Petroecuador, to suspend production and the government to seek a temporary loan of oil from Venezuela to keep up exports.

Most of Ecuador's oil exports go to the United States.