A collaborative post from Mariana Niembro*, Mexico City, Octavio Martínez**, Mexico City and Sergio Davila, Amsterdam.
Friday 18th of March of 1938, 22:00hrs The president of Mexico Lázaro Cárdenas declares the expropriation of the petrol. This meaning that the natural resources exploited by foreign companies became property of the Mexican nation. The 17 companies that were taken by the government were mainly American, British and Dutch. The UK broke up diplomatic relations with Mexico, The Netherlands and the US declared commercial embargo.
On the other hand the whole nation was moved by this act and they showed the support in public demonstrations, even the church supported this decision. We were taught in the elementary school to be proud about this action, and nowadays we understand its relevance, it was a declaration of economical independence, the disentanglement of an imperialist pressure that forestalled Mexico to believe in its own strength and capabilities.
The Second World War benefited Mexico obliging USA and the allies to release the embargo and to make strategic alliances instead of protecting the private companies. This situation raised the demand of the Mexican petrol and supported the economical development of the nation until now.
Seventy years after, the situation is quite delicate in the country. The Mexican Energy Secretariat declared in the last diagnosis that reserves of the Mexican Petrol Company (PEMEX) are going down. The solution that the current president is promoting is to allow international capital to invest in strategic areas mainly the exploration, exploitation and refinement. The analysis that the current governing party made is mainly economical and they claim that urgent action is needed otherwise PEMEX will soon go bankrupt.
The process begun when the president sent to the senator chamber a law initiative that includes promotion of foreign capital investment into the industry that handles the oil in México: PEMEX. This promotion is made on the assumption that PEMEX is a corrupt, anachronic and dysfunctional institution, which is not inserted on the contemporary market logic. Obviously the objective of the promotion of international investment is to insert PEMEX in this market logic, which basically means to adequate the industry to the “Washington Consensus”. To be clear on this, Mexican people have lost credibility on their governors and this initiative sounds convenient for a neo-liberal and global mind but for the critical mind it sounds like the first step to sell PEMEX.
The senator chamber is diverse during this period, and that means an ideal estate for democracy because every proposal can be discussed further. It is a fact that not everybody agrees with the current president, the risk of allowing private investment in the most important industry, basic for the national budget and the development of the country, diminish the courageous acts of previous generations that shaped the national identity.
Is strange that being such a difficult subject the current government does not take the time to review the arguments and more important ask for civil opinion. It makes people wonder whether if it was true or not that international capital has been invested in the campaigns of the two last presidents (both of them belonged to the right-wing party, PAN) specially because of the close relationship that they keep with industries like Halli Burton. Particularly since the 2002 when this company found highly reactive formations of petroleum in the Gulf of Mexico. At least we have to conclude that the topic is complicated and it requires a lot of dialogue between experts, students, lawyers, and citizens.
A huge area of opportunity in this case, in comparison with European countries like Finland and The Netherlands, is the fact that society takes civil action, meaning that they not only express their opinion but they also believe that their action will cause an impact in the national direction. Mexican citizens miss this kind of opportunities to be dynamic actors in the decision process, which is a basic element in the contemporary democratic and representative regimes.
* Mariana Niembro Martínez is a Political Science student working as a lobbing reporter at the Mexican Senate.
** Octavio Martínez Michel made his BA in philosophy and is currently assisting a research about electoral processes in Latin America.