Mexico's New President Says He Won't Consider Privatization of Pemex

Mexican national oil company Pemex and the country's state-owned electricity utilities will not be privatized, newly elected Mexican President Felipe Calderon said last week.

He said he intends to strengthen the finances of the national companies, but he did not explain specifically how during an announcement about his proposed future legislative agenda. "There will be deliberations that we Mexicans will have in Congress to find the means by which Pemex can access the probable [oil] reserves, particularly in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico," Calderon said. "But for now, I will be very respectful of national legislation on the matter, which doesn't permit foreign investment in petroleum extraction."

Even if Calderon did choose to privatize the companies, experts warned that the process would be very difficult, if not impossible, due to the current political climate in the country associated with his close victory for the presidency over Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

"It's going to be impossible to open the oil industry to private participation because of the opposition in the Congress and on the street," said consultant Rogelio Ramirez de la O, an economic adviser to Lopez Obrador during the presidential campaign. "It would be flirting with a very early and possibly irreversible political defeat."

"To reform the energy sector, you need a lot of legitimacy," energy economist Angel de la Vega said, "and a conservative government can't do it" (Dudley Althaus, Houston Chronicle, Sept. 30). -- RJD

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