MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's congress started debate Tuesday on the rules of a historic opening of the state-owned oil industry amid doubts about whether the discussion should be held during the World Cup soccer tournament.
The World Cup opens Thursday and is expected to keep Mexicans glued to their television sets, just as the Senate holds debates from June 10-23 on how to open the oil, gas and electricity industries to private and foreign investors.
Oil is a sensitive subject in Mexico; the 1938 expropriation of the industry still marks a point of national pride, but the country's oil production has been fallen steadily.
The constitutional reforms, passed in December, allow private companies to drill for oil and hold concessions for the first time since 1938. But the rules governing what those contracts and concessions would look like, and who would oversee the process, are what is now being debated.
Some on the left say the timing of the debate is meant to keep Mexicans' attention off what they claim is a give-away of the industry to multinational firms.
"This is without doubt a strategy to distract attention from the country's most important reform," said Sen. Rabindranath Salazar, of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "Obviously, people are going to want to watch a sporting event a thousand times more" than follow the debate over the energy reform.
The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party denies it is trying to push anything through congress behind the public's back. With vast deep-sea and shale gas reserves currently untapped, the PRI, as President Enrique Pena Nieto's party is known, says the country simply can't wait weeks to resolve such an important issue.
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