Mexico: protesters pledge to resist energy ‘reform’

Some 40,000 teachers, union members and opposition activists took to Mexico City’s streets Dec. 2 in a demonstration to mark the first anniversary of the inauguration of President Enrique Pe帽a Nieto (PRI). The protesters joined a rally led by Pe帽a Nieto’s ex-challenger Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador, formerly of the left-opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and now heading a National Regneration Movement (Morena) to oppose the administration’s economic policies. The teachers’ union CNTE and electrical workers’ SME were heavily represented as L贸pez Obrador led the march from the iconic Angel of Independence statue to the Z贸calo, Mexico City’s central plaza. A key issue at the rally was Pe帽a Nieto’s planned reform of the state oil monopoly Pemex, which protesters assailed as a privatization of the company. “We are here to avoid a big robbery,” L贸pez Obrador told the crowd below a massive banner declaring “NO to the sale of Pemex!” Another banner addrressed to Pe帽a Nieto read: “Sell your body. It’s yours. The oil is mine.” 

After taking power, Pe帽a Nieto signed a “Pact for Mexico”  with the main opposition parties, pledging a series of structural reforms. Days before the protest march, the PRD announced that it will pull out of the pact unless the government changes its planned reforms of the energy sector鈥攚hich includes opening Pemex to foreign partners for high-cost, super-deep oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Pemex generates more than a third of the funds the Mexican government’s budget, but its output has slid from 3.4 million barrels per day in 2004 to 2.5 million in 2012. 

L贸pez Obrador told the masses at the Z贸calo that he would lead his adherents in a sit-in that will encircle the Senate building as soon as debate opens on the energy reform. He said the occupation will be maintained for as long as necessary to halt the reform package.

L贸pez Obrador also emphasized that his movement is non-violent, and will reject the participation of “trouble-makers, infiltrators and provocateurs.” He especially made reference to face-masks, which have become a symbol of radical anarchist break-away factions that have caused some vandalism at recent protests in the capital. (AFP, Dec. 2; Excelsior, Excelsior, Dec. 1; Reuters, Nov. 29)

Zapatistas respond to anarchist scare
Some two weeks earlier, Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatista rebels in southern Chiapas state responded in his latest communiqu茅 to the recent anarchist scare launched by the Mexican media. He especially protested the pressure from some figures in Mexico’s mainstream left to bar anarchists from the Little School of Freedom, or Escuelita de Libertad, an activist gathering that the Zapatistas hosted in their territory in August. 

Wrote Marcos: “Given the anti-anarchist campaign launched by…the well-behaved left united in a holy crusade with the old right to accuse the anarchists, young and old, of challenging the system (as if anarchism had another option)…and the repetition ad nauseum of epithets such as ‘anarcho-hardliners,’ ‘anarcho-provocateur,’ ‘anarcho-thugs,’ ‘anarcho-etcetera’ (somewhere I read the epithet ‘anarcho-anarchist,’ isn鈥檛 that sublime?), the Zapatista men and women cannot ignore the climate of hysteria that so firmly demands respect for windowpanes (which don’t reveal but rather hide what happens just behind the counter: slave-like work conditions, a total lack of hygiene, poor quality, low nutritional value, money laundering, tax evasion, and capital flight).” (, Nov. 15)

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  1. Pe帽a Nieto: Pemex for sale

    The Jan/Feb. issue of Foereign Affairs features "Pact for Progress: A Conversation With Enrique Peña Nieto," in which the Mexican mandatory tells the patrician scriveners exactly what they want to hear. Baited about declining oil production, he responds:

    I think the model we have presented to Congress is very similar to models that have proved successful in other parts of the world. It promotes greater partici­pation by the private sector in oil, gas, and all our energy resources. This issue is very sensitive in Mexican culture. It's practically a religious issue. But we’ve seen other countries implement reforms inviting in the foreign private sector, and they were able to boost production in Colombia, and in Brazil…

    Seemingly in deference to its supposedly sacrosanct status, he doesn't actually invoke the word "Pemex," much less say that it is for sale. But that's clearly what he means. Talking out of both sides of his mouth, he adds:

    Resources will continue belonging to Mexicans. They are the patrimony of the nation. But the Mexican state must find more efficient ways to exploit those resources. If we don’t make sure that Mexico can offer potential investors more input, they'll stop coming to Mexico. They’ll go to the United States or other places where it is more economically viable to carry out their projects. I think that the debate taking place in Congress will lead to majority support for the necessary reforms before this legislative period concludes in December.

    Baited about how the PRI has opposed "reform" in the past, he assures:

    …Mexico changed, and the PRI has simply adapted itself to the new democratic conditions of our country. [In 2000,] the PRI stopped being the hegemonic party, and it got to be in the opposition. So it had to learn to compete, to gain the support of society. I think the PRI has really taken in these new lessons.

    Isn't it interesting how privatization suddenly becomes "democratic," as if there were a groundswell from "society" demanding further neoliberal reform? (A cute rhetorical trick we have noted before.) He also hails the Pacific Alliance and Trans-Pacific Partnership as "two initiatives that will help demonstrate Mexico's openness to the world."