Mexico broaches oil privatization 鈥攁lmost

On Feb. 13, Mexico’s El Economista reported that the Mexican Senate’s Energy Commission, led by Juan Bueno Torio of President Felipe Calder贸n‘s conservative National Action Party (PAN), has called for a “special program of private investment” for Pemex, the state oil monopoly. While Bueno Torio emphasized “Pemex will not be privatized,” he said new investments were needed to meet Mexico’s growing energy demands.

President Calder贸n appeared to back up this proposal in comments last week in Los Angeles, where he ended a five-day tour of the US: “The capacity of Mexico to produce petroleum is declining because our proven reserves are running out. They probably will last nine more years.” With the remaining oil in less accessible locations, new capital will be needed to exploit it, Calder贸n said. “The good news for Mexico is that we have petroleum and lots of it. The problem is that this treasure is buried beneath the ocean. To reach that oil we need to strengthen Pemex.” Although Calder贸n did not use the word “privatization,” the Houston Chronicle reported his comments Feb. 16 under the headline “Privatizing Pemex?” Reporter Dudley Althaus notes that a bilateral treaty prohibiting offshore oil production along the US-Mexico line will expire in two years. “We must go after that oil,” Calder贸n said. “And that’s what the discussion of this issue must deal with. It’s not a problem of more money. It’s a problem of technology and operational capacity.” But technology means capital, and Althaus notes that opposition leader Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador has called for a campaign of “national resistance” against privatization.

While the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) calls for US corporate access to most sectors of the Mexican economy, Pemex has been an exception due to its politically sensitive nature.

See our last posts on Mexco and the anti-NAFTA struggle.