Thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of Mexico City on Sunday to protest an oil reform bill they say would lead to the privatization of the country’s state-run oil company. Led by opposition lawmaker Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the demonstrators expressed their displeasure with plans to look for private capital to help fund the expansion of Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company.


Story Transcript

VOICEOVER: Thousands demonstrated on the streets of Mexico City on Sunday in protest against Mexican President Filipe Calderón’s recent oil reform bill. Led by opposition lawmaker Andrés Manuel López Obrador, protesters rallied against the bill, which would allow the government’s state oil company, Petróleas Mexicanos, or PEMEX, to seek foreign help to boost sagging production. Obrador and his supporters view this as a move toward privatization and a threat to national sovereignty.

ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR, PARTY OF THE DEMOCRATIC REVOLUTION (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): We are willing to take the consequences of the political fallout if by that we can prevent the privatization of oil.

VOICEOVER: Mexico’s constitution bars most outside involvement in its nationalized oil industry.

GUSTAVO INDART, CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The oil industry in Mexico is something that most Mexicans feel very strongly about. To many it’s the symbol of the revolution. The oil industry was nationalized in the early 1930s. That certainly created a sentiment of more independence, particularly from the US. And this sentiment certainly has continued over time. So the privatization of Pemex certainly would be very difficult to do directly. What could be done and has been done with other industries is to start step by step in order not to create very large negative reaction all at once. When we see these demonstrations that are being organized by López Obrador certainly has great support, but not as much as would be expected.

VOICEOVER: Professor Indart added that as President Calderón’s privatization agenda becomes clearer, it is likely more people will protest his oil reform.

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Professor Gustavo Indart

Professor Gustavo Indart of the University of Toronto specializes in the study of economic reform in Latin America.