Mexico: “no” vote on Pemex “reform”

Some 1.8 million Mexicans voted overwhelmingly in an unofficial, non-binding referendum on July 27 to reject President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s proposals to allow more involvement in the state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), by local and foreign private companies. The vote was held in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) and nine states; similar unofficial votes are planned for the remaining 23 states on Aug. 10 and Aug. 24.

A rapid count late on July 27 showed about 870,000 people voting in the DF. Exit polls by the Consulta Mitofsky polling firm estimated that 84.7% voted no on the first question—whether to allow private companies to participate in activities relating to petroleum exploitation—while 15.3% voted yes. A second question asked if voters agreed “in general” with Calderón’s energy reform proposals; some 82.9% voted no, and 17.1% voted yes, according to the exit poll. (La Jornada, Mexico, July 28)

Vote counting was slower outside the DF, but as of July 31 organizers reported that about 968,000 voters had participated in the nine states, which include such populous areas as Mexico state. Some 93% of these voted no on the first question while 5% voted yes, with 2% of the votes ruled invalid; 91% voted no on the second question, and 7% voted yes, with the rest invalid. (LJ, Aug. 1)

Organizers insisted that they were “satisfied” with voter participation. However, the center-left government of the DF had printed enough ballots for 6 million voters, many more than the number of voters that turned out. Unofficial referendums in the past seem to have drawn more voters: organizers claimed that an August 1998 vote on a government bailout of banks brought out more than 3 million voters, while 2.4 million Mexicans reportedly participated in a March 1999 “consultation” by the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) on indigenous rights. Carlos Payan Velver, former editor of the left-leaning daily La Jornada, noted that in the DF people had to present voter credentials before voting in this year’s referendum. Participation was much higher than for other votes in the DF with the same requirements, he said, such as a 2002 referendum on building a second level for the Mexico City beltway, which brought out 420,000 voters. (LJ, July 28. 29)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 3

See our last post on the struggle for Mexico’s oil.