Sat Jul 8th, 2006 at 02:07:46 PM EST
The United States imports more oil from Mexico than Saudi Arabia.
By law, all Mexican oil is exploited by a state owned corportation, PEMEX. The gradual opening of the Mexican economy to the private sector, has reached a culmination in recent elections with the conservative candidate, Felipe Calderon, fighting accusations that he would privatize PEMEX. Left opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) included a promise to not privatize PEMEX, focusing on value added products like gasoline and plastics, as part of his 50 Promises, the core of AMLO's polticial program. What's certain is that Mexico's aging fields are in decline, and the skilled trades workers needed to keep Mexican crude flowing oppose any effort to privatize Mexican oil resources, vehemently. And their anger has been targeted at American companies Bechtel and Halliburton percieved as having recevived overpriced contracts from the conservative government.
In recent years, Pemex's professional staff has been rent by protests and purges over the issue of privatization.
"The current management has tried to privatize as much as it could, but the results speak for themselves," said Francisco Garaicochea, a former chief of oil-field technology at Pemex who now leads a left-leaning group of retired company executives, Pemex Engineers Group of the 1917 Constitution. "We have talked with Lopez Obrador's advisers, and we are confident there would be a reversal of Pemex's mistaken strategy, its focus on only exporting raw materials rather than processed petroleum products."
In Tabasco, engineers who have been fired from the company complain that Pemex under the Fox administration has unnecessarily given billions of dollars of service contracts to U.S. companies such as Bechtel, Halliburton and Schlumberger.
"Calderon wants to privatize Pemex, but that's just a recipe for more corruption," said Ricardo Decle, a petroleum engineer who was frog-marched off his workplace by soldiers in 2004 as part of a purge of about 50 dissenting technical staff and is now chief of a group of local Pemex retirees. "In Pemex, there is no transparency, nobody watches over the contracts. For starters, they ask for a 10 percent (bribe) off the top of the price. When anyone complains, they are repressed. This is the way business is done here."
Tabasco, by the way, is the home state of AMLO and the site of a massive protest following a stolen election in the mid 90's in which his supporters occupied oil facilities in Tabasco.
Election expert Sergio Aguayo warns, "if one of the candidates challenges the result, the country could face unrest until the new president's inauguration on December 1."
Election fraud and vote-buying were part of everyday political life in the old Mexico, and perhaps these customs haven't died out completely yet. As a precaution against potential irregularities, the Fox administration has asked the European Union to provide election monitors.
The man who faced an adoring crowd in that downpour in Orizaba has already challenged an election defeat once before. It was in the mid-1990s when Obrador failed to capture a majority of the vote in a bid for the governorship of Tabasco. In protest, he and his supporters occupied the oil fields in Tabasco, ultimately prompting the police to step in and restore order.
La Jornada, a Mexican paper of the left, is reporting today that SENER (Mexican Energy Secretariat), Calderon's former sinecure, was promoting the privatization of PEMEX to foreign investors a full month before his <s>presumed</s> victory in last week's election.
A month before the election, Energy offered private investors oil exploration
Sale offerd solicited for private Mexican investors and foreign porjects for the contruction of electric centers, transport, storage, and distributio of natural gas
ISRAEL RODRIGUEZ J.
A month before the presidential election, the Energy Secretariat (SENER) began to promote investment "opportunities" in the Mexican energy sector.
The attraction for private capaital, above all international, is that the petroelectic sector represent 8.4% of GDP, 12.5% of exports, and 1/3 of the country's tax revenues.
By way of the the Investment Promotion Department, SENER put deverse projects for the construction of electric centers finaced through investment, for the transport, storage, and distribution of natural gas.
In the catalouge of invest,ment opportunities, above all in PEMEX, SENER signaled, "817 investment opportunities for oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico", without identifying by what mechanism, because until now the exploration and explotation for crude are reserved, by consitutional mandate, exclusively for the State.
Although the mainstream press, and President Bush (as well as other world leaders) have congratulated Calderon for his victory, the final outcome is uncertain.
Serious allegations of fraud, including the discovery of ballots dumped in landfills in Mexico City and Veracruz. Irregularities between the initial vote count and the discovery that the official count on the outside of ballot boxes didn't match the ballots inside when boxes where opened, have led to demands for a ballot by ballot recount throughout the country.
AMLO and his team are demanding a ballot by ballot recount in light of these irregularities, and are convocing a rally in the Zocalo in the heart of Mexico City to tell supporters their next move. Remember that when the election was stolen in Tabasco, AMLO's supporters occupied the oil fields, and the PRD has it's electoral base in the Center and South of the country. The mainstream press have ignored ample evidence of fraud in Mexican elections, so if things get out of hands be prepared for the condemnation of anti-American leftists provoking the poor.
And if AMLO and the skilled oil workers shut down the flow of crude from Mexico, be prepared for gas to skyrocket. And for the possibility that American forces will be called upon to help Mexican military and police retake oil facitilies.