Mexico’s leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and their associated frenemies in Congress and civil society have been the source of much entertaining political theater over the years. The PRD’s position as the country’s third largest political force sets it up for occasional legislative bullying by the two parties with larger representation in Congress, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN). Lacking the votes to throw their weight around, the PRD has resorted to some creative maneuvers, but this time it seems they have truly decided to invoke Monty Python’s classic proclamation “And now for something completely different.”
To recap for anyone who has missed our past postson this topic, in 2013 the PRI, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto and with help from the PAN, rammed through Congress an energy reform law intended to open Mexico’s state-run energy industry to participation by the private sector. Outflanked on the vote scoreboard, the PRD and its allies parried by busting up furniture and yelling obscenities from the dias. But the secondary legislation that will allow the reform to enter into effect has yet to be passed, so the PRD is looking for creative ways to derail the government’s apparent success before it can actually get off the ground.
Since the outset of the campaign to pass the reform, Peña and his supporters have been feverishly insisting that the reform will create enormous opportunities for foreign investment for private energy industry companies, particularly from abroad. They’re throwing around estimates of new investment in the hundreds of billions of dollars. So with trade and investment missions arriving practically weekly from abroad, this is where the PRD becomes “Think Outside the Box Guy.” Party president Jesús Zambrano this month led a mission of his own – a roadshow, as these things are often called – to the United States with the stated mission of discouraging foreign investment in Mexico. Zambrano and a committee of PRD legislators traveled to Washington, D.C. May 26 – 29, 2014, to meet with business groups, members of the U.S. Congress, multilateral banks and think tanks to alert them to the dangers of investing in the unstable banana republic south of the border. They presented a host of arguments about why when it comes to investing, Mexico is sketchy as shit: The economy’s in the tank, the awarding of contracts is untrustworthy, and the population is a pressure cooker on the verge of exploding in social unrest. Above all, the PRD itself is leading a nationwide effort to organize a referendum to demand that the reform law be repealed, so really, the whole thing could have turned out to be a bad dream by the end of the year.
We may be paraphrasing to entertain ourselves, but you can read the PRD’s equally entertaining explanation of Zambrano’s roadshow in their own words on their web site, if you can understand Spanish. And we’re not trying to belittle the PRD’s efforts – they have the right to get their message out at home and abroad as much as any other party. What we are saying is that we are impressed by their innovative spirit. As far as memory serves, we have never before seen one of our own political parties take a roadshow abroad to encourage foreign investors not to invest in Mexico. Elsewhere, such a tactic might run the risk of becoming a political liability at the polls. Here, though, it’s just part of our colorful political culture. May the cleverest devil win.