Following marathon legislative sessions last week, the Mexican Congress finally approved the long awaited secondary laws associated with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s energy reform, clearing the way for implementation of the reform. Once President Peña signs the laws into effect today, August 11, 2014, we may become a monkey’s uncle, since that is what we have always said would happen if Mexico’s energy industry was opened to the private sector. We are astonished this is occurring in our lifetime.
Of course, no one, starting with Mr. Peña himself, knows exactly what will happen now. One thing we do know will not happen, however, is that national oil company Pemex will be “privatized,” as professional tear-factories and guardians of the national mythology such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his allies on the far left customarily wail. Pemex won’t be privatized, not because Peña and his allies in the right-wing opposition PAN wouldn’t do it if they could, but because no for-profit, private-sector oil company would want to buy Pemex. The value is in the oil and gas, not in the shamefully dysfunctional national oil company, and if you can drink the milk without buying the cow, well, you know. And Pemex is one hideous, bloated, corrupt and inedible cow.
So there is the challenge to the stewards or our national development and prosperity, and in this, the left may yet be proven right. The Mexican government must permit incentive-based contracts, concessions, partnerships or whatever they will be called to obtain the private sector capital and technology that will allow for the explotiation of the country’s energy resources. We are hoping this will result in a new Scandanavian-model dawn that will bring us cheaper energy and greater revenue for the national coffers while foreign oil companies receive a profitable return on their investments. If the foreign oil companies pollute the environment and make sweetheart deals with corrupt politicians, well, then nothing really will have changed. But if the nefarious foreign capitalists make a fortune off our oil in exchange for increased national oil revenues, updated technology and infrastructure development, then at least the nation will be receiving some benefit from our national resources. At present, all we have is the indignity of being the laughing stock of the Petroleum Workers Union and the political parties as they gorge themselves at the trough that is Pemex.
The campaign period for the Mexican presidential election to be held this Sunday July 1 officially lasts only three months, but it has seemed like an eternity. While the candidates criss-crossed the country slagging one another and repeating their talking points by rote, the non-Televisa media – and the U.K.’s Guardian – gleefully reported on the numerous scams and dodgy electoral practices of their respective parties. Polls published in the mainstream Mexican media continue to show the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto holding a significant lead over his closest rival, the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, despite López Obrador’s late surge. The ruling PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota ran a lifeless campaign and appears from all angles to be toast.
We feel no enthusiasm for any of the three main candidates. While Peña Nieto’s platform positions on major issues seem generally in line with our own, the reality is that he represents a party that institutionalized corruption for over 70 years in Mexico, and neither the candidate nor the party itself has shown any indication whatsoever of taking a new approach to government. In fact, much to the contrary. While López Obador is being touted with urgency by many as the “useful vote” to try to prevent the return of the PRI, his proposals and governing style represent a leaden return to the old fashioned Latin American governments of the mid-20th century, favoring cult of personality, discretionary handouts, state control of industry and institutionalized unions – basically, the system implemented by the PRI to run the country at their pleasure for most of the twentieth century.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, we would venture to assert that together with jobs and a living wage, what most Mexicans desire most is an end to the atrocious violence wracking the country as a result of drug trafficking and the current administration’s policies to combat it. Despite this topic being headline news on the T.V. and around the water cooler for the past five years, the presidential candidates did their valiant best to avoid it during the campaign. Well, the prize for the winner will be that he or she will no longer be able to avoid this national crisis, and if the new president does not show substantial progress in reducing the violence, at the very least there will be another change in ruling party in 2018.
If there is any positive takeaway from this year’s election campaign period, it is the increasingly influential role being played by grassroots organizations in shaping the national dialogue. The longtime television monopoly held by Televisa, now a duopoly with Television Azteca, served as a veritable media enforcer for the PRI in shaping public opinion. The recently emerged #YoSoy132 student movement should be commended for using its voice to urge voters to think independently and decide their vote based on analysis (#YoSoy132 has not endorsed any particular candidate, although let’s be real – most of them are for López Obrador). Similarly, Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad (Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity) led by poet Javier Sicilia has been unrelenting in its effort to keep the human cost of the drug wars from being swept under the rug by the politicians. Regardless of one’s political orientation, free and open exchange of information and a free press are indispensable for democracy and healthy economic development, and that is most certainly what we desire for our country.
A few things have changed since our last discussion of the Mexican presidential campaign, so here is an update on where we stand in mid-April.
To recap the basics, elections will be held in Mexico on July 1, 2012 for president and mayor of Mexico City, as well as various governorships and Congressional, state and local posts. Each of the three principal political parties has registered its candidate for the presidency, as follows:
Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI): Enrique Peña Nieto
Partido Acción Nacional (PAN): Josefina Vázquez Mota
Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD): Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Right vs. Left is often in the eye of the beholder, particularly in the case of the PRI, which is both a member of the Socialist International and the party that brought Mexico into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Conventional analysis would probably cast the PAN as the party of the right, the PRI in the center, and the PRD on the left. For the purposes of the current campaign, we should note that both Peña Nieto and Vázquez Mota have expressed support for considering increased private sector participation in state-run oil and gas monopoly Pemex. Continue reading Mexico presidential election campaign update→