After meeting with the United States Secretary of Energy on Thursday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has accused companies of being “reverend thieves”, stating that “they should be ashamed” to go to the Government of that country to request to intercede for them in the event of a change in regulation. The Mexican president avoided sharing details of the meeting, reporting only that the United States has a list of companies whose investments in Mexico will be reviewed individually to possibly reach an agreement.
Secretary Jennifer Granholm’s visit comes days before the Mexican Congress resumes discussion of the controversial electricity reform that López Obrador proposed last year. The initiative reverses, to a large extent, the energy reform passed during the previous Administration, which opens the market to private parties. López Obrador proposes to grant the state company, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), 54% of the market, so that the rest is distributed among private parties. In addition, if the initiative passes, existing contracts would be canceled. The Government of López Obrador argues that many of these contracts are abusive, to the detriment of the public treasury and were made with corruption. His government has not brought any case before the Mexican justice system.
On Thursday, in a brief message to the media before the meeting, Secretary Granholm referred to the reform showing her confidence in an understanding. “There may be issues to resolve that we are also going to work on, such as electricity reform, but we know that in the end we are going to be strong allies, we will decisively support a strong North American economy and I really appreciate the friendship.” Secretary Granholm’s team canceled a press conference on Friday morning. Before returning to his country, in any case, he will meet with his Mexican counterpart, Rocío Nahle, and the head of the Government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum.
Asked about progress or specific agreements with the US government, President López Obrador did not offer details, describing the meeting as “a very cordial meeting.” He assured that the White House has a list of American and Canadian companies that want to “resolve” the future of their investments, without mentioning which companies or which investments. “The conversation was very good,” López Obrador said. “Where they consider that there is an injustice, the cases are reviewed. They already have a list. There are some companies that are asking to be informed and we are doing it, both American and Canadian.”
Minutes later, the president turned his attention to the companies that, he assures, requested the intervention of the US government, arguing that the policies that his government proposes are “communist.” He said: “They seek to protect themselves with the United States Government. We are going to accuse them with the Government of the United States. And with what arguments? A foreign government is not going to come to defend corruption. They make it very difficult for them. Because if it were something unfair, then yes. The United States has been very respectful and is not protecting corruption.” And he sentenced: “They should be ashamed. They are reverend thieves.”
Despite the fact that López Obrador’s efforts to reform the law have not materialized, during the three years of the Government, private energy companies, especially renewable energies, have seen their operations hampered. The president asked the sector’s regulators not to grant the necessary permits or licenses for companies to operate, leaving billions of dollars in investment in limbo. In addition, it canceled renewable energy auctions that would have allowed greater generation of wind and solar energy by private companies.
Since López Obrador came to power at the end of 2018, congressmen and workers’ associations in the US have sent letters to the White House, both to former President Donald Trump and the current one, Joe Biden, asking the Administration to act against the obstacles that the Mexican government has placed on companies from that country, arguing that it contravenes the free trade agreement between the North American economies, the T-MEC. The most recent letter, signed by senators from the Democratic Party, from President Biden, was sent on Tuesday.
This week the purchase of the Deer Park refinery in Texas was finalized, which the state company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) acquired from the transnational Royal Dutch Shell. In a video message to refinery employees posted Friday, López Obrador said one of his flagship projects, a refinery in his home state of Tabasco, will open in July.
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