Mexico Basic Political Developments



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Mexico

Basic Political Developments


  • Mexican President Felipe Calderon is strongly encouraging US firms to invest in Mexico, according to April 23 reports. Calderon, on an official visit to the US, classified Mexico as having “solid economic fundamentals” and said investment in his country could slow illegal immigration by offering more incentives for Mexicans to stay in Mexico. Mexico’s openness to foreign business is not a new development, and Calderon’s administration is responsible for a significant hike in taxes paid by business. However, the tax increase has been accompanied by increasing attention from the government on matters of corruption, transparency, and security – all encouraging signs for business.

  • An international coalition of academics, environmental, and conservation groups called April 23 on the governments of the U.S.A., Mexico, and Canada to stop interfering with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an environmental watchdog agency created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

National Economic Trends


  • According to the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Economic Commission (ECLAC), Mexico’s gross domestic product is expected to grow 2.7 percent in 2008.

  • Mexico’s Bolsa closed at a loss of 0.32 percent April 24.

  • Mexico posted the fastest annual inflation since May 2005 – 4.53 percent – as prices in the first half of April surged for food, gasoline and housing.

Business, Energy or Environmental regulations or discussions


  • Mexican cement maker Cemex isn't overly exposed to a nationalization of its Venezuela operations because it's only a small part of its global operations, Chief Executive Lorenzo Zambrano said April 24.

  • Striking miners at Grupo Mexico’s Cananea coper mine say that they don’t believe the company’s announcement that it is closing the facility.

  • Metalworker trade unions from around the world are calling on the Mexican government and mining company Grupo México to end their repression of independent trade unions in Mexico, according to April 24 reports.

Activity in the Oil and Gas sector (including regulatory)


  • Big new oil finds on the U.S. side of the Gulf of Mexico could drain away Mexico's supplies unless the Latin American producer fundamentally changes its oil law to allow it to sign production-sharing deals with foreign firms, experts said April 23.

Terrorism and Social Instability


  • Guanajuato state is reinforcing its vigilance and security along its border with Michoacán state due to a wave of crimes in Michoacán.

  • A former police official, linked to the Arellano-Felix cartel, was found executed April 24 along with another unidentified victim.

Pemex


  • According to an April 24 report, even with record high oil prices, Pemex is still losing money.

  • Pemex has ordered custom fire-fighting rigs from US firm Sensor Electronics, according to April 24 reports.

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Basic Political Developments


http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/5724486.html

April 23, 2008, 1:53PM

Calderon makes pitch for US investment in Mexico
DALLAS — Mexican President Felipe Calderon made an investment pitch Tuesday to business officials, saying his country has "solid economic fundamentals" and is dealing with transportation needs and crime.
And while Calderon has criticized U.S. immigration policy, he said U.S. investment in his country could ease the pressure for Mexicans to move _ legally or otherwise _ to the United States.
"The goal is not to see every year Mexican people trying to cross the border to the United States," Calderon said. "Our goal is to create opportunities for our people in Mexico. That is absolutely possible."
Calderon spoke to about 25 Dallas-area business and civic leaders at a swank downtown hotel.
Calderon sat at the head of a U-shaped set of tables, with a group of Mexican officials to his right, and the Dallas contingent to his left. A slide on a screen at the foot of the room said, "Mexico: Open for Business."
Introducing the president, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert called for more business and cultural ties between the United States and Mexico. He said trade would create more opportunities for Texas businesses and access to lower-priced goods for consumers.
Leppert also praised Calderon for sending federal troops into Ciudad Juarez to combat drug-war violence in the border city that lies across the Rio Grande from El Paso.
Robert Chereck, a regional president for Wells Fargo & Co., said he was impressed by Calderon's presentation of policies aimed at improving transportation systems, energy production and debt reduction.
"They're doing a great job," Chereck said. He was also struck by a study by investment bank Goldman Sachs, which predicted that Mexico will be the fifth-largest economy in the world by 2050.
After Calderon spoke for about 15 minutes, reporters were asked to leave, and the meeting continued for a few more minutes.
Participants said the closed session focused on trade and Mexico's economic policies, and that immigration did not come up.
The event was sponsored by a Mexican government-run group called the Institute for Mexicans Abroad. It usually meets in Mexico City, but Leppert lobbied for a Dallas session.
Earlier Tuesday, Calderon met with President Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in New Orleans in a show of unity on trade. They rejected the call of Democrats in Congress to scrap or renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which removed barriers to trade and investment between the three countries.
Calderon's visit came against the backdrop of rising anti-trade rhetoric in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail.
http://www.commondreams.org/news2008/0423-01.htm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 23, 2008

9:43 AM


Canada, US and Mexico Interfering With NAFTA Watchdog

TORONTO/NEW YORK/MEXICO CITY - April 23 - An international coalition of academics, environmental, and conservation groups today called on the governments of the U.S.A., Mexico, and Canada to stop interfering with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an environmental watchdog agency created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The coalition alleges that the conduct of the environment ministers of each country is interfering with the CEC, and particularly its core citizen complaint procedure.


“We are deeply concerned by increasingly blatant government interference in the operations of this important environmental watchdog,” said Albert Koehl, lawyer with Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law organization.
The CEC was established in 1994 to quell fears that NAFTA would lead to business leaving the U.S. because of lax environmental enforcement elsewhere. A side agreement to NAFTA was negotiated which included the establishment of the CEC along with a novel and promising provision that allowed citizens to request investigations into a country's failure to enforce its own environmental laws.
The groups, however, allege that the governments are undermining the CEC by obstructing its investigations and severely limiting their scope. In one recent case involving an alleged failure by the US EPA to enforce its Clean Water Act against US coal-fired power plants, the governments have obstructed the process for almost two and a half years.
“The CEC's watchdog role is a small price to pay by our governments for a measure of credibility to their assertions that NAFTA respects the environment and other social values,” said Gustavo Alanis of the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental in Mexico City. “It's too bad our governments are so short sighted that they can't bear even this small amount of scrutiny.”
Although the CEC was originally created to quiet anxiety over potentially weak Mexican environmental enforcement, Canada and the U.S. have also been the targets of citizen complaints. In fact, two recent investigations by the CEC found that Canada was failing to enforce wildlife protection laws against logging companies engaged in clearcutting and pollution laws against pulp and paper companies.
“When the CEC was established, we saw it as a novel and promising model for other trade agreements,” said U.S. Professor John H. Knox of Wake Forest University School of Law. “It's sad that this promise is being squandered by our leaders to avoid the small fallout of scrutiny that comes from citizen complaints.”
The coalition's call to the NAFTA parties this week coincides with a CEC meeting in Phoenix, Arizona as well as the North American leaders summit in New Orleans, which includes discussions on the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). The SPP --- including its environmental initiatives --- has faced criticism for its lack of transparency and public participation, precisely the types of safeguards central to the CEC.

National Economic Trends


http://www.mercopress.com/vernoticia.do?id=13233&formato=HTML

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Latam forecasted to expand 4.7% in 2008; Argentina 7%

Latin America’s economy will grow at 4.7% in 2008 compared with 5.7% last year, the United Nations Latin American and Caribbean Economic Commission, CEPAL, estimated this week, reaffirming growth targets trimmed in March.

José Luis Machinea, head of CEPAL based in Santiago de Chile, told reporters he expects Brazil’s gross domestic product to grow 4.8%, Mexico 2.7% and Argentina 7%.
Machinea said it was unlikely the US subprime mortgage crisis would have a major impact in Latin America’s financial markets, but warned the US slowdown would hit poorer countries and those reliant on exports to the US.
“There will be a soft recession in the US, but we think the impact on Latin America won’t be that big,” Machinea said.
According to CEPAL Chile’s economy is set to grow 4.5% while Venezuela and Colombia are expected to expand at a 6% rate.
Panama with 8% is set to lead the region’s growth. Peru with 7% and Uruguay, 6.5% are forecasted to have a good year. Bolivia and Paraguay are estimated to expand 5%
Machinea trimmed CEPAL previous forecasts in March, citing a likely soft recession in the United States, a slowdown in Europe and some impact in China. However the Latinamerican economy will remain solid given the strong demand and prices for commodities.
http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/501702.html

Cierra a la baja Bolsa Mexicana con 0.32%

Jueves 24 de abril de 2008

Avanza Dow Jones 0.67% y Nasdaq con 0.99%

La Bolsa Mexicana de Valores (BMV) cerró este jueves con una pérdida marginal de 0.32% o 101.75 puntos para ubicar el Índice de Precios y Cotizaciones (IPyC) en 31 mil 746.23 unidades.
De acuerdo con cifras disponibles al cierre, el principal indicador de la Bolsa de Nueva York, Dow Jones avanzó 0.67% o 85.73 puntos para quedar en 12 mil 848.95 unidades, mientras que el índice compuesto Nasdaq ganó 0.99% o 23.71 puntos para ubicarse en 2 mil 428.92 unidades.
Se negociaron en la BMV 176.6 millones de títulos con un importe de 6 mil 134.6 millones de pesos. Participaron 78 empresas, 44 ganaron, 28 perdieron y 6 permanecieron sin cambios.
La mayor ganancia fue para POCHTEC B con 62.57%, seguida por CYDSASA A con 14.26%, por el contrario pierde HOGAR B con 7.45% y CODUSA Nominativa con 6.94%.
El sector más beneficiado fue construcción con 0.78%, mientras que el más afectado fue extractiva con 4.50%.
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601086&sid=acjvbS6yuDHE&refer=news

Mexico Inflation Quickens to Fastest Since May 2005 (Update2)


April 24 (Bloomberg) -- Mexico posted the fastest annual inflation since May 2005 as prices in the first half of April surged for food, gasoline and housing.
Consumer prices climbed 4.53 percent from a year earlier and 0.06 percent compared with the previous month, the central bank said. Economists expected prices to fall 0.11 percent from March, according to the median estimate of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
Annual inflation exceeded the central bank's estimate of as much as 4.50 percent in the second quarter, reducing the likelihood that the bank will cut its benchmark interest rate in coming months.
``The possibility of cutting rates soon doesn't exist anymore,'' said Guillermo Aboumrad, a senior economist at Banco UBS Pactual in Mexico City. ``We have to wait for the inflation trend to slow.''
Core inflation, which excludes some food and energy costs, was 0.25 percent, faster than the 0.16 percent expected in the Bloomberg survey.
Policy makers kept the benchmark interest rate unchanged for a sixth month last week, balancing their forecast for above- target inflation against concerns that the economy is slowing.
Food Prices
The bank said last week that the rise in food prices had outpaced forecasts and that it expected inflation to accelerate in coming months. It said it will revise its inflation forecast in next week's consumer price report.
The bank, known as Banxico, is keeping borrowing costs unchanged as the U.S. Federal Reserve has cut rates to 2.25 percent from 5.25 percent in September to spur a slowing economy.
Unfavorable weather and greater demand for exports were behind a rise in tomato prices, the bank said. Seasonal discounts in electricity rates also had less impact on prices than they did last year, it said.
``This makes it difficult for the central bank to ease monetary policy in the second half of the year,'' said Bertrand Delgado, a Latin America economist at IDEAglobal Inc., a New York-based research firm.
Mexico's peso-denominated bonds fell after the inflation report.
Yields on the 10 percent bond due December 2024 rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 7.81 percent, the highest since Jan. 21. The bond's price fell 0.22 centavo to 120.3 centavos per peso at 10:06 a.m. New York time, according to Banco Santander SA.

Business, Energy or Environmental regulations or discussions


http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/501653.html

Desestiman mineros cierre de planta en Cananea

Jueves 24 de abril de 2008

Considera el líder de la Sección 65 del sindicato minero, Sergio Tolano Lizárraga, que Grupo México pretende confundir a los trabajadores, luego del anuncio del cierre de la planta y la liquidación del personal

El líder de la Sección 65 del Sindicato Minero, de Mexicana de Cananea, Sergio Tolano Lizárraga, desestimó el anuncio de la empresa sobre el cierre de la planta minera y la liquidación del personal.
En declaraciones a medios de comunicación locales, el dirigente en Cananea del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana (SNTMMSRM) consideró que la empresa trata de confundir a los mineros.
Consideró que el anuncio del cierre, que anoche dio a conocer la compañía propiedad del Grupo México, es una estrategia que busca desvirtuar la huelga que la Sección 65 del Sindicato Minero mantiene desde el 30 de julio del 2007 en la mina.
Planteó que además de confundir a los trabajadores de la planta productora de cobre, "la empresa legalmente no puede liquidar porque la ley se lo impide mientras persista la huelga".
Tolano Lizárraga mencionó que la huelga en Mexicana de Cananea continuará y desmintió las acusaciones de la empresa contra el sindicato para respaldar el supuesto cierre de la minera.
La compañía minera anunció la víspera el cierre de la planta productora de cobre en Cananea y ofreció liquidar a todos sus trabajadores sindicalizados y empleados conforme al Contrato Colectivo de Trabajo y a la ley laboral.
Asimismo, se comprometió a reiniciar operaciones en un futuro, cuando cuente con la certidumbre laboral y la necesaria aplicación de la ley para el buen desarrollo de la comunidad.
En un comunicado, la empresa planteó que es evidente que algunos no desean que Cananea produzca y añadió que pueden intimidar a la mayoría para no trabajar, pero sus familias no tienen por qué sufrir ese embate.
Indicó que la mina ha registrado nueve paros de labores en los últimos siete años que suman más de 350 días, además de la violencia, pillaje, robos y vandalismo por parte de la Sección 65 del SNTMMSRM, lo que hace técnicamente imposible la eficiencia y productividad.
Subrayó que las nuevas inversiones permanecen inconclusas por los constantes bloqueos del sindicato a los contratistas y ahora mismo, en plena huelga, el sindicato ha formulado dos nuevos emplazamientos.
Por su parte, el vocero de la sección 65 del SNTMMSRM, Omar Lugo Patrón, refirió que el comunicado de la empresa sobre el cierre se está difundiendo en Cananea a través de medios electrónicos de comunicación.
En el transcurso de este día, añadió, se celebrará una asamblea con los mineros sindicalizados para determinar las acciones que emprenderán en torno a este anuncio.
http://www.imfmetal.org/main/index.cfm?n=47&l=2&c=17559

Metal unions call on governments to press for change in Mexico

IMF White Paper and documentary exposing deadly rights violations and corruption on the part of the Mexican Government and mining giant, Grupo México, has metalworkers mobilized.

GLOBAL: Metalworker trade unions from around the world are calling on the Mexican Government and mining company Grupo México to end their repression of independent trade unions in Mexico.


The country's largest mining company, Grupo México, and the Mexican government, first under President Fox and now under President Calderón, have systematically and repeatedly violated Mexican law and international standards in an attempt to crush the National Miners' and Metalworkers' Union of Mexico (SNTMMSRM).
Attacks on the union have included withdrawing legal recognition of the union's democratically elected General Secretary Napoleón Gómez Urrutia and other elected leaders based on forged evidence and issuing baseless arrest warrants against Gómez. The government and Grupo México have attempted to divide the union by granting overnight recognition to a pro-company union and holding elections in which workers were forced to join its ranks. Meanwhile, Grupo México seemingly is able to murder, torture, intimidate and abuse workers with complete indemnity.

Activity in the Oil and Gas sector (including regulatory)


http://www.guardian.co.uk/feedarticle?id=7481378

Mexico oil reserves along US border at risk -panelReuters, Wednesday April 23 2008 By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Big new oil finds on the U.S. side of the Gulf of Mexico could drain away Mexico's supplies unless the Latin American producer fundamentally changes its oil law to allow it to sign production-sharing deals with foreign firms, experts said on Wednesday.

At issue are the undeveloped oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico's Western Gap known as the "doughnut hole," which could hold up to 20 billion barrels of oil and will be open to drilling once a moratorium ends in 2010.

New developments like the Perdido floating spar facility being built by Royal Dutch Shell will bring oil development within miles of the Mexican border, while Mexico's state-owned Pemex is powerless to chase a wealth of ultra deepwater resources due to a lack of cash.

Without a new legal framework to allow Pemex to sign deals with foreign oil companies, drilling rigs in waters controlled by the United States, Cuba and Belize could drain Mexico's oil due to the area's flow dynamics, experts said.

"Our potential transboundary fields are at risk," said Lourdes Melgar, a Mexico City-based oil consultant, speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. "If Mexico doesn't do something ... those resources are going to be lost."

Both Shell and the U.S. government have downplayed the possibility of cross-border drainage from existing fields, saying that geological barriers keep the oil in place.

Chris Oynes, an official with the U.S. Minerals Management Service, said the United States and Mexico could perhaps sign unitization contracts that would divvy up transboundary oil resources in line with proven reserves.

The U.S. government has signed more than 200 such contracts to divide the rights to oil produced near Gulf of Mexico states like Texas and Louisiana, but currently has no authority to sign them with foreign governments.

U.S. State Department officials are currently studying how such unitization contracts might work, panelists said.

If written as performance clauses to service contracts with Pemex, the cooperation agreements would be authorized by the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to Jose Luis Alberro, a director at consulting firm LECG and former Pemex official.

Without such assurances, "the first person to drill gets to suck up all the goodies," said Joe Dukert, an independent energy analyst.

Mexico is the world's No. 6 producer of crude and a top U.S. supplier but Pemex is not finding new reserves fast enough to stave off a decline in output.

President Felipe Calderon's conservative party is pushing a government energy reform plan to sweeten terms for foreign oilfield service contracts.

But objections from Mexico's centrist opposition party will likely delay approval of the bill until after Congress wraps up its spring session on April 30.

Melgar said that Mexico could approve a framework for transboundary oil resources without acting on the larger issue of privatization.

Miriam Grunstein, an attorney with Thompson and Knight, said the two issues are too interlinked to solve separately.

"If you don't overhaul the legal and contractual agreements you will have nothing at all," Grunstein said.

World-scale exploration companies "would rather be at war than come to Mexico," because Pemex contracts are slanted against them, she said.


Terrorism and Social Instability


http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/501690.html

Refuerza Guanajuato vigilancia en frontera con Michoacán

Jueves 24 de abril de 2008

Participan elementos de Seguridad y Procuraduría de Justicia de estado ante la ola de crímenes violentos registrados en los municipios limítrofes

La Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) intensificó este jueves la vigilancia aérea en la frontera de Guanajuato con el estado de Michoacán, ante la ola de crímenes violentos registrados en los municipios limítrofes, entre ataques a instalaciones de gobierno, enfrentamientos con policías y ejecuciones.
El gobernador Juan Manuel Oliva Ramírez señaló que se fortalecerá la vigilancia aérea con la supervisión de especialistas y un helicóptero de la PGR, y dijo que sigue la colaboración del Ejército mexicano en esa región.
Al medio día inició el operativo por aire, a la par de acciones policiales y patrullaje terrestre.
“Nuestro objetivo es claro, seguridad para Guanajuato y sus familias”, dijo el mandatario estatal.
El 3 de abril, Oliva Ramírez se reunió con su homólogo de Michoacán, Leonel Godoy, y ambos acordaron implementar acciones conjuntas “por una frontera segura”.
En la vigilancia participan elementos de Seguridad y Procuraduría de Justicia de los tres niveles de gobierno.
Once municipios del sur y sureste de Guanajuato colindan con 14 municipios del vecino estado, entre éstos Pénjamo, Acámbaro y Jerécuaro, que registran las cifras más altas en delitos de alto impacto.
“Pénjamo es el basurero de los criminales, aquí nos vienen a tirar a los ejecutados”, dijo en su oportunidad el alcalde de esa localidad, José Erandi Bermúdez Méndez.
El lunes pasado una comisión de ediles de ese territorio acudió a la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública federal para aplicar un nuevo modelo de seguridad en las colindancias con Michoacán, tras la serie de eventos sangrientos de los últimos 18 meses.
Un días después, el Secretario ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, Roberto Campa Cifrián, anunció un nuevo diseño de vigilancia con mayor patrullaje y vigilancia.
Los mega-operativos en el estado vecino han dado como resultado que algunos de estos grupos busquen desplazarse a las zonas limítrofes de Guanajuato, comentó Campa el martes en una gira por esta ciudad.
LOS HECHOS
El 26 de enero, tres hombres ejecutados fueron descubiertos en el interior de una camioneta en el municipio de Pénjamo, Guanajuato, en los límites Michoacán.
El viernes 21 de marzo, un comando armado atacó las instalaciones de la Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado en Jerécuaro y se enfrentó a balazos con corporaciones, con un saldo de seis muertos, cinco de ellos servidores públicos.
El mismo día, dos policías ministeriales fueron “levantados” y hasta la fecha siguen desaparecidos.
Dos semanas después, sujetos armados atacaron con granadas a los elementos de dos patrullas de la Policía Preventiva en Salvatierra.
http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/501701.html

Ejecutan a ex-agente policiaco en Tijuana

Jueves 24 de abril de 2008

Se encontraba presuntamente involucrado con el cártel Arellano Félix

Un ex-agente de la Policía Ministerial de Baja California presuntamente vinculado con el cártel Arellano Félix, fue ejecutado junto con otro individuo.
El ex-funcionario, identificado como Carlos Ignacio Acosta Ibarra, el Big Boy, tenía el índice izquierdo amputado y sobre el vientre un bote de aluminio relleno de billetes y monedas estadounidenses. El otro ejecutado se encuentra en calidad de desconocido.
Ambos cuerpos fueron localizados la noche del miércoles en una calle del fraccionamiento Los Venados, en el este de la ciudad, y más tarde la policía municipal encontró el cadáver de una mujer con la cabeza y pies envueltos en cinta adhesiva en un camino vecinal del fraccionamiento Baja Malibú, en el sur de Tijuana.
El cadáver de Acosta Ibarra tenía dos tiros en el rostro y el otro cuerpo presentaba un balazo en la nuca.
De acuerdo con registros de la Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, el ex-ministerial fue dado de baja de la corporación en el 2002, cuando individuos que integraban una célula de los hermanos Arellano Félix lo señalaron como su protector.
Los detenidos aseguraron que el entonces policía ministerial les proporcionó credenciales falsas de la corporación.
En julio del 2006, elementos de la Agencia Federal de Investigación lo detuvieron a punto de cruzar a Estados Unidos. Fue enviado a la Ciudad de México donde se le acusó de delincuencia organizada, pero después salió libre y regresó a esta frontera.
Las identidades del otro ejecutado y la mujer no se han dado a conocer.

Pemex


http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iujxE9-S8UyoVLkED4UkAXmtbk7wD908EBT00

Even with oil price, Mexico's state-run oil company loses money


MEXICO CITY (AP) — Even with oil at $118 a barrel, Mexico's state-run oil company is losing money.
But a presidential plan to fix Petroleos Mexicanos by inviting foreign help is riling deep-seated emotions over sovereignty — and causing a paralysis that could doom America's third-largest oil supplier.
Leftist legislators have padlocked the doors of Congress, camping out in the chambers for two weeks in protest. Opponents on the right have attacked them in a national TV ad, invoking images of Adolf Hitler.
Everyone in Mexico — from top leaders to housewives — seems to be swept up in the fervor.
While President Felipe Calderon's administration calls the congressional lockdown an international embarrassment, Fernanda de Jesus Arriola gives up her afternoon soaps and takes her young children to march in Mexico City.
"Calderon is a right-winger who is going to take away our way of life," said Arriola, 35, pulling her 6-year-old daughter's pink Barbie suitcase as her family walked with hundreds of protesters. "It's the same as strangling us because foreign oil companies are exploiters who will enslave us."
Pemex is rapidly running out of the oil that provides more than one-third of Mexico's federal budget. Finding more will require drilling thousands of feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico — an exceedingly difficult challenge. Nearly everyone agrees that Pemex lacks the capacity to accomplish this without serious reforms.
The trouble is, Mexico's Constitution bans Pemex from joint ventures with private and foreign companies that have the technology and expertise to find oil in such deep water.
Calderon has backed off the politically explosive idea of changing the Constitution, proposing merely to ease some state restrictions on involvement by private companies.
His plan still retains much more state control than other Latin American government oil monopolies do. Even Cuba is working with outside companies to drill in the Gulf. Brazil's state-owned Petroleo Brasileiro SA has used joint ventures with private oil companies to become an industry leader, recently discovering what could be the world's third-largest oil field off its coast.
But while Mexicans may shop at Walmart and eat at McDonald's, oil is a birthright. The sentiment dates back to March 18, 1938, when President Lazaro Cardenas kicked out the American and European oil companies that refused to pay union wage demands while reaping Mexico's oil profits.
Every year on that day, school children learn about the bold eviction of foreign companies, especially those from the United States, whose annexation of half of Mexico's territory after the 1846 Mexican-American War still hurts.
Women offered their jewelry to help pay to establish the national oil company. Arriola says her grandparents gave their chickens and pigs, and she is hell bent on protecting the company 70 years later.
"We are defending our resources, our patrimony, our dignity," she said.
Arriola snarls traffic and waves banners daily with hundreds of other women, who call themselves the "Adelitas" based on a famous folk song about a female soldier who took up arms in the Mexican Revolution.
They are spurred on by leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who still refuses to concede the 2006 presidential election he narrowly lost to the conservative Calderon.
Lopez Obrador had receded into the background until Calderon made his Pemex proposal. Now he's back to commanding tens of thousands of protesters in the streets.
But oil expert Justin Dargin says Mexicans' passion for their oil could doom the company — and possibly the country.
The national turmoil is keeping anyone from dealing with declining production, leaky pipelines and a lack of technology to tap into potential reserves in the Gulf, where U.S. companies are busily preparing to drill.
Mexico's Cantarell oil field — discovered in 1976 and one of the world's largest — is drying up. Pemex posted a net quarterly loss this week of US$1.48 billion as its revenues are drained to fund schools, hospitals and public works. Meanwhile, every other major oil company is reinvesting unprecedented profits in oil exploration.
Mexico could lose its standing as a major oil exporter in five years if it does not find more oil, experts say.
"We're talking about the vitality of the Mexican state. That's how important this issue is," said Dargin, a research fellow at Harvard University.
Even what Calderon has on the table may not be enough. Boxed in politically, Calderon proposes merely easing bureaucratic barriers and letting Pemex pay outside contractors "bonuses" — not a percentage cut — for any oil they find. Analysts say that's a good start, but won't likely entice major oil companies to invest billions in deep-water drilling.
The impasse isn't likely to be resolved any time soon.
Congress remains under lockdown with Lopez Obrador's allies demanding a 120-day national debate on the issue. Legislators from the ruling National Action Party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party have proposed 72 days.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Lopez Obrador said Thursday that his protests had already succeeded by preventing what he called "el fast-track" for Calderon's reforms.
"They couldn't do what they wanted, which was to pass it quickly in the pre-dawn hours when no one was watching," said Lopez Obrador, who plans another mass rally on the issue Sunday in Mexico City's central square.
On the other side, a conservative group that supports Calderon's bill ran television spots comparing Lopez Obrador to Hitler. The spots were pulled this week after they outraged some viewers.
For Maria Elena Hernandez, 53, much more is at stake than Mexico's image, which wasn't helped when the congressional takeover forced the cancellation of an official state reception for India's president.
The retired secretary joined demonstrators singing the national anthem to police guarding an office building where legislators have fled in hopes of getting some work done.
"If we let down our guard, the Americans would come in and install their oil workers," said Hernandez, wearing a white baseball cap and T-shirt emblazoned with "Defend Pemex." "Soon they would be telling us that we have to pay rent to live here."
http://www.sunherald.com/447/story/511686.html

Pemex Orders Custom Fire-Fighting Rigs for Gulf Platforms Fire Combat


MARINETTE, Wis., April 24 -- Offshore oil/gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico will soon be protected by special fire-fighting rigs produced by the Fire Combat division of Minneapolis-based Sensor Electronics.

The rigs are customer-engineered for Pemex, the Mexican national oil company.


Initially Fire Combat is furnishing fire-suppression systems for a dozen offshore platforms, said Scott Hornick, executive vice president of Fire Combat. Plans are to eventually fit 75 Pemex platforms with the special rigs, he added.
Each rig holds 2000 pounds of dry chemical propelled by the nitrogen-charged tanks. Because the rigs are completely self-contained, they need no external piping, plumbing or electrical connections, Hornick said.
Each rig is mounted on a heavy steel frame; a special lift cage allows rigs to be repositioned on a platform, or even moved from one platform to another as needs change, Hornick said.
A single charge of dry chemical can "flood" a 3000-square-foot platform for 7 minutes, effectively quenching even stubborn petroleum or electrical fires, he said.
Rigs are designed to shrug off tropical heat, high humidity and corrosive salt spray, he added.


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