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LATIN AMERICA

Mexican left calls for referendum on oil shake-up

Pemex can be reformed without constitutional changes, argues PRD founder Cárdenas

Supporters of the leftwing PRD protest against a constitutional reform proposed by President Peña Nieto to open up state oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investment.
Supporters of the leftwing PRD protest against a constitutional reform proposed by President Peña Nieto to open up state oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investment. AFP

The Mexican left knows that the battle for Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) could well be lost in Congress, which is why it has called for a referendum to prevent a reform to articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution, proposed last week by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is seeking to open the country’s energy sector to foreign investment.

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the founder and moral leader of Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), on Monday asked for a citizen poll and said that no constitutional changes are required to maximize the output of Mexico’s energy industry.

“I take it upon myself to call you to present authorities with our demand for a consultation regarding whether reforms to the constitutional articles 27 and 28 should be maintained; this consultation would have to take place concurrently with the next federal election to renew the House of Deputies. Let us convene to push back reforms of 27 and 28, in the unhappy event that they be approved during this legislative term. We can do it, and the people will respond,” said Cárdenas at the foot of the Monument to the Revolution, in downtown Mexico City, which houses the mausoleum of his father, former president Lázaro Cárdenas, the man who undertook oil expropriation in 1938.

Cárdenas admitted that Peña Nieto’s proposal might be approved in Congress over the next four months, because support from the president’s own Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) will be enough to achieve two-thirds of the votes as required for constitutional reform. But he also added that citizens could use the referendum to prevent the reforms from going into effect. The leftist leader said he will coordinate a campaign to collect 1.6 million signatures and ask authorities to organize the poll in July 2015.

Let us push back the reforms of 27 and 28. We can do it, and the people will respond”

Surrounded by supporters and party leaders, Cárdenas called Peña Nieto’s proposal “privatizing” and “antipatriotic,” adding that the initiative, which was sent to the Senate last week, is incomplete because it lacks a detailed description of the changes that will be made to secondary legislation once the constitutional amendments are approved.

“Why has the executive’s initiative so far only been reduced to reforms of articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution yet said nothing about secondary laws?” asked Cárdenas, whose criticism focused mainly on the broadness of the president’s proposal and the lack of details regarding energy reform.

Cárdenas said that Peña Nieto’s use of his father’s name, Lázaro Cárdenas, to support his plans, is offensive to those who champion the historic leftist leader’s ideas. “Opportunistic demagoguery” is how he described the president’s use of the 1938 expropriation to defend his own initiative to open the door to private investors in a bid to improve the industry’s results.

The left’s energy reform proposals rest on eight points underscoring the need for a change in Pemex’s tax regime, for stronger institutions in charge of energy issues, for greater support for research and for introducing renewable energies, as well as for reorganizing the way state energy companies are run. The PRD agrees with PAN on some points, such as its desire for the STPRM oil workers’ union to leave the board of Pemex, or the creation of a new tax regime to prevent 67 percent of Pemex’s income from going to the Treasury.

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