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Pemex: An Update

     The posting about the disaster of the tanker "Erika" and the consequent public rage in France against the Total oil company has called attention to the problem of capitalist globalization, which is resented most in underdeveloped countries. Oil companies are a prime target because they extract oil there and disrupt life without bringing corresponding benefits to all but a few. Nigeria and Colombia are prime examples of this. Wild stories circulate to prove the villainy of the oil companies.
     The result has often been cries of "the oil is ours" and demands for nationalization. Here the prime example is Mexico, where the nationalization of the oil industry by Lázaro Cárdenas is celebrated in a prominent monument and has become part of "Mexicanidad"--Mexicanness. Criticism of it would sound like treason.
     The oil industry is centered in Tampico, where its powerful union conducts a campaign against the trend to privatization. It has close ties with that great enemy of privatization, Fidel Castro, and is behind much of the unrest in southern Mexico. It has ties to the PRD of Cuautémoc Cárdenas, the son of Lázaro, who is using the unrest and the university student strike to intimidate the government of Ernesto Zedillo. This whole network is clandestine; precise information about it would be valuable.
     The last posting on Mexico said that PEMEX was responsible for the desperate shortage of bottled gas for heating, but that, as a sacred cow, it was above open criticism. Suddenly this has changed. The shortage may be a deliberate attempt to cause trouble for the Zedillo government. The governor of the northern state of Chihuahua, Patricio Martínez, has broken the silence and come out with a sharp denunciation of PEMEX. The northern tier of Mexico is the area where the revolutionary tradition is weakest, but the governor´s words have echoed throughout Mexico. The director of PEMEX, Marcos Ramírez, a rather pathetic figure, made an unconvincing reply. However, the union, not he, is problem. As yet the Zedillo has shown no sign of taking effective action. That could lead to serious trouble.

Ronald Hilton - 12/30/99