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42

Pemex Reform Proposal Encounters Serious Obstacles

With the doors to the Mexican Lower House of Congress debating chamber barricaded by opponents of proposed reforms to the nation's state oil and gas industry, and the Senate likewise blocked, President Felipe Calderon's idea of fast-tracking the reforms through the legislature appeared doomed Thursday

With the doors to the Mexican Lower House of Congress debating chamber barricaded by opponents of proposed reforms to the nation's state oil and gas industry, and the Senate likewise blocked, President Felipe Calderon's idea of fast-tracking the reforms through the legislature appeared doomed Thursday.

Calderon's National Action Party (PAN) had agreed on Monday to hold a national debate over 50 days on the reform proposals for the state-controlled industry, which President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized in 1938. This was a concession, suggested by the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), after Calderon had originally harbored hopes of getting congressional
approval of the reforms by April 30.

But as the weekend approached, a coalition of left-wing opposition parties was occupying the nation's principal debating chambers for the seventh day as well as holding out for a national debate to last over four months and be broadcast on radio and TV. Some of the protesters were dressed in Mexican revolutionary outfits.

Calderon sent his plan to Congress April 8. Among other measures he proposed: opening refining and pipelines at state owned oil company Pemex to private investment; allowing Pemex more flexibility in negotiating upstream contracts; introducing independent members to the Pemex board; and removing congressional control over Pemex spending and projects.

If approval of the proposals is not achieved by the end of this month, a special congressional session can be called in the summer.

However, echoing left-wing politicians' vehement opposition to the fast-track plan, Javier Gonzalez Garza, coordinator of the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD), assured reporters the reforms would not be approved any time between May and August.

As for the federal government, it will not intervene to free the two congressional debating chambers, according to Cuauhtemoc Cardona Benavides, under-secretary for liaison with legislators at the Interior Ministry.