Mexico: thousands march against ‘energy reform’

In the first street demonstration that former center-left presidential candidate Cuauht√©moc C√°rdenas Sol√≥rzano has led since 2000, thousands of Mexicans marched in Mexico City on Aug. 31 to show their opposition to President Enrique Pe√Īa Nieto’s plan for opening up the state-owned oil and electric companies, Petr√≥leos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Federal Energy Commission (CFE), to greater participation by foreign and Mexican private companies. The marchers set off from the Angel of Independence, a traditional starting point for Mexico City demonstrations, but they stopped short of the usual destination, the Z√≥calo plaza, which dissident teachers are occupying as part of a series of protests that have tied up various parts of the capital since Aug. 21. The education workers are protesting President Pe√Īa‚Äôs plans for teacher evaluations.

Although the Aug. 31 march was relatively small‚ÄĒMexico City police estimated the crowd at 8,000‚ÄĒthe protest was significant because of the forces and issues it brought together, with some 300 individuals and dozens of organizations joining C√°rdenas in the call for the action. Supporters included C√°rdenas’ longtime rival Porfirio Mu√Īoz Ledo, leaders of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and members of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), which split from the PRD last year. C√°rdenas began his speech with a greeting to Alberto Patisht√°n, a supporter of the rebel Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) imprisoned in the southeastern state of Chiapas, and then expressed support for the dissident teachers. Marchers carried signs opposing the president‚Äôs entire “reform” agenda‚ÄĒwhich in addition to teacher evaluations and the partial privatization of the energy sector includes changes in the labor code and increases in the value-added tax (a sales tax known by its initials in Spanish, IVA). (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 1)

The Aug. 31 march was only one of the activities Mexicans are carrying out against Pe√Īa’s proposals. The PRD organized a “consultation” (unofficial referendum) on Aug. 25 and Sept. 1 with three questions on the energy proposals and three on the IVA, which Pe√Īa wants to extend to food and medicine. (LJ, Sept. 1) Morena and its founder, former center-left presidential candidate Andr√©s Manuel L√≥pez Obrador, are building for another street demonstration on Sept. 8. Raquel D√°vila Salas, Morena‚Äôs secretary general in the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), said she expected the dissident teachers to cooperate and make it possible for this protest to be held in the Z√≥calo. (LJ , Sept. 1)

In related news, the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) faction in the federal Chamber of Deputies announced on Aug. 31 that it would try to have DF head of government Miguel √Āngel Mancera impeached for failing to use harsher methods to control the dissident teachers‚Äô recent protests in the capital. The small PVEM is closely allied to the president‚Äôs centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). (LJ, Sept. 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, September 1.