Mexican Interior Minister Defends Earlier Energy Contracts

Mexico's embattled Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mourino, has vowed to remain in his post despite criticism over two energy contracts he signed years ago during a stint as an adviser to the Energy Ministry.

Some opposition lawmakers have demanded a corruption probe of the recently appointed minister, a close ally of President Felipe Calderon. The episode has distracted Mourino from negotiating energy reforms with Congress, one of Calderon's main goals for this year.

In a radio interview Friday, Mourino said he did sign contract renewals for a family-owned transportation company to provide services to state oil monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos.

However, he said he had no role in awarding the deals, adding that the companies have worked for Pemex for years.

Calderon named Mourino interior minister earlier this year, hoping the former lawmaker would be able to build a consensus in Congress for energy and labor reforms. Calderon looks to expand the role of private investment in the energy industry and make labor laws more business-friendly.

Pemex Chief Executive Jesus Reyes Heroles defended Mourino, and said the episode has only distracted the country from modernizing the oil industry, the La Jornada newspaper reported on Friday.

Leading members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the largest opposition party in the Senate, also have come to Mourino's defense. PRI senators refused to vote in favor of the corruption probe in a session Thursday.

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