As Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto begins his second year in office, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest his plans to permit foreign private investment in the country’s oil and gas industry, the BBC reported
The government in August introduced legislation allowing foreign firms to form energy exploration partnerships with Pemex, Mexico’s state-run oil company.
If enacted into law, this would herald a dramatic shift for the Mexican energy sector.
Since the nationalization of its oil industry more than more than 75 years ago, many Mexicans have regarded it as a matter of national pride that the state-owned monopoly Pemex controls oil and gas production in the country.
But production has been sharply declining for years, and Mexican officials warn that the country, currently among the world’s top 10 oil producers, could soon become a net importer if reforms aren’t made at Pemex, the Los Angeles Times reported
But the prospect of change brought into the streets thousands of activists, many of them union members and supporters of Mexican opposition leader Andres Lopez Obrador, who Nieto defeated in last year’s presidential election.
“We are here to avoid a big robbery,” Obrador told protesters, according to Iran’s Press TV
The energy bill is the cornerstone of a broader drive for structural reforms in the Mexican government now being pushed by Pena Nieto in areas ranging from education to telecommunications.
The Mexican president’s approval ratings are their lowest since he came into office last year. According to recent public opinion polls, Nieto’s popular approval rating has dropped from 52 to 44 percent since July, the BBC reported.
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