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The Austin-American Statesman, USA, April 15, 2008

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Pemex reform hits a major snag

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This is what the Mexican Congress has looked like since last week, as leftist lawmakers loyal to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have shut down the legislature in opposition to President Felipe Calderon’s proposed Pemex reform. Lawmakers staged a hunger strike inside the Congress over the weekend and have physically prevented Congress from meeting (sound familiar? the same tactics were used to prevent Vicente Fox from giving his last state of the union address).

It’s looking more and more like Calderon’s PAN and the PRI have come to a general agreement on the essence of the reform proposal. The left-leaning PRD and other left-wing parties are doing everything they can to derail the reform, which they say amounts to a privatizing of Pemex, Mexico’s nationalized oil company. But the PAN and PRI could pass the reform without a single PRD vote, hence the congressional blockade.

Calderon’s proposal calls for allowing private investors to help finance the construction of new refineries and would allow Pemex to enter into joint ventures with private firms.

Yesterday, members of the PAN thought they had come to an agreement to lift the blockade of Congress, agreeing to 12 national debates over the next 50 days. But the deal was reportedly nixed by Lopez Obrador, who has once again become a major player in Mexican politics by spearheading opposition to the reform.

However the congressional standoff ends, it seems clear that energy reform could be weeks or months away. Lawmakers have talked of a special session over the summer to deal with it.

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