Mexico: Pemex referendum starts

On July 27 voters in Mexico’s Federal District (DF, Mexico City) and nine states were scheduled to vote in a non-binding referendum on President Felipe CalderĂłn Hinojosa’s proposals to allow more involvement the state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), by local and foreign private companies. Voters were to answer yes or no to two questions: “1) Currently the exploitation, transport, distribution and refining of hydrocarbons are exclusively activities of the government. Do you agree or not that private companies should now be able to participate in these activities? 2) In general, do you agree or not that the initiatives currently being debated in Congress relating to energy reform should be approved?”

The vote has been promoted by former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and by an alliance of left parties known as the Broad Progressive Front (FAP). Congress and the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) refused to implement the referendum, arguing that it has no basis in the Constitution or in Mexican law. The DF’s PRD government is sponsoring the vote in the capital, while in the rest of the country political and social organizations are organizing the balloting.

The July 27 vote includes the DF, Mexico state, Michoacán, Guerrero, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Baja California Sur, Veracruz, San Luis Potosi and Hidalgo. In the DF 17,000 volunteers were to oversee voting at 5,586 ballot boxes; 25,000 people volunteered to manage 6,500 ballot boxes in the nine states. A total of 12 million ballots—one for each question—were printed for the DF. The operation is headed by Manuel Camacho Solis, now a PRD politician but formerly Mexico City mayor (1988-1993) for the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the head government negotiator in 1994 talks with the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). A group of intellectuals and artists have been prominent in the drive to turn out the vote.

Two more stages are planned in the referendum: the southeastern states and a few others are voting on Aug. 10, while the northern and western states vote on Aug. 24. Organizers said they expected the votes in the DF and Mexico state to be tallied by the end of the day on July 27. (Mexican Labor News and Analysis, July 2008, Vol. 13, #7; La Jornada, July 27)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 27

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle for Pemex.