Mexico Lawmakers Back Landmark, Controversial Energy Legislation

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 09:43 AM

By Joel Himelfarb

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The Mexican House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to major energy reform legislation pushed by President Enrique Pena Nieto.

On a 354 to 134 vote, lawmakers voted to support a bill opening the nation’s energy sector to foreign investment. The House is expected to consider reservations put forward by leftist opposition groups before it gives final approval to the measure, the Voice of Russia reported.

Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, the Mexican Senate gave preliminary approval to the legislation on a 95 to 28 vote.

The Senate vote to approve the bill came at 11:55 p.m. Tuesday, after nine hours of floor debate.

Leftist foes of the legislation demonstrated their opposition to the Senate bill by pounding towering metal barricades outside the Senate building with hammers and stones,  the Los Angeles Times reported.

The measure includes provisions to change Mexico’s constitution to permit foreign oil firms  to drill for oil and receive a cut of what is produced in that country.

But the notion of non-Mexicans playing such a role in the oil industry troubles many Mexicans. President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the foreign-run oil industry in 1938 in response to what was regarded as unfair treatment of local workers, and Mexican government control of the industry has long been a source of national pride.

But energy production has been declining in recent years, leading a growing number of Mexicans to conclude that the troubled government-run oil company Pemex would benefit from an infusion of outside investment and foreign capital.

Pemex provides approximately one-third of the Mexican federal government’s income.

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