The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has put an end to its ambiguity regarding the electricity reform presented by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. After leaving the door open to negotiations for more than half a year, PRI leader Alejandro Moreno announced on Monday that his party will vote against the constitutional initiative. This categorical rejection buries the hopes that the government had of gaining the support of the PRI and leaves what was one of the great priorities of the Mexican president for the second half of his six-year term in the dust. Shortly after the refusal was made public, Morena, the formation of the president, has assured that they are open to incorporating proposals from the opposition.
The president of the PRI, Alejandro Moreno, has made the announcement surrounded by the members of the National Executive Committee, the highest body of the party. “Our vote is against. We will not have to approve it even if the Morena government does not like it. It is not credible that they have a plan to generate electricity for the entire country and that it does not go up in price”, declared the politician.
The refusal has been accompanied by a closing of ranks in the opposition coalition formed by PRI, PAN and PRD, after the doubts generated within the alliance due to the lack of clarity of the tricolor party’s position. In a subsequent press conference with the leaders of the three formations, the PAN member Marko Cortés congratulated the deputies of the coalition “for their firmness” in staying united.
In addition, the leaders have assured that they will present a counterproposal “adhering to legality but above all to competitiveness”, in the words of Moreno. The coalition has once again criticized the impact they claim the reform presented by López Obrador would have on the certainty of investments and the environment. The presidential initiative proposes canceling current contracts signed by the companies and changing the dispatch order to give priority to the plants of the parastatal Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), whether or not they are more polluting and expensive than the private ones.
While the opposition established its position, the leader of Morena in the Chamber of Deputies, Ignacio Mier, has reached out to try to save the initiative. The deputy has affirmed that they will take into account the proposals of other groups and will present a new draft decree on Thursday that they will take to commissions next Monday. “TO It is up to Morena and the coalition to be attentive, to be respectful and to create the conditions to have the necessary votes to carry out the decree”, he said.
However, Mier has once again insisted on one of the points of the reform rejected by the opposition: setting in the Constitution the percentage of generation reserved for the CFE at least 54%, compared to 46% for the private sector. In addition, the opinion of the reform that Morena has presented this Monday and that will be the basis of the legislative discussion maintains the text sent by López Obrador, with only a few minor changes. The core of the proposal and the most controversial, such as the cancellation of contracts, remains the same.
The PRI’s announcement opens a pothole that is difficult to overcome in a legislative path that already seemed complicated. Being a constitutional reform, the Government needs two thirds of the votes in Congress to approve it. So far, in the Chamber of Deputies, Morena and his allies only have 277 of the 333 they need. Faced with the outright rejection of the rest of the opposition, the PRI had become the Government’s only card to carry out the initiative.
The PRI’s ambiguity had provoked misgivings among its PAN and PRD allies. Just three weeks ago, in an interview with this newspaper, Moreno said that they could not “say no to everything”, although he warned that the initiative had to be modified and that, in any case, the vote should be held after the state elections. June, in which the PRI is playing for several governorships. On the other hand, Moreno’s negotiating position collided with the rejection of other heavyweights in the party, such as that of his coordinator in the Senate, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong.
In the end, Morena has accelerated the times and seeks to vote the reform in the Chamber of Deputies during the month of April, against the wishes of the PRI. In addition, the majority party is not expected to accept substantial changes to the initiative, as Alejandro Moreno had requested. After meeting with White House climate change envoy John Kerry, López Obrador insisted on Friday that the proposal “stays as it is.” In line with the president, the Morenoite leaders in the Chamber of Deputies had also defended maintaining the “essence.”
Aware that support for his reform was hanging by a thread, López Obrador had increased the pressure in recent weeks on the tricolor party. “It is going to be a shame that they side with foreign companies, that they remember that General (Lázaro) Cárdenas said ‘whoever gives the country’s natural resources to foreigners is a traitor to the country,’” he said last week, before asking to the PRI leaders who “let the legislators go free” so that everyone can vote according to their individual opinion.
These pressures do not seem to have gone down well with the PRI. Alejandro Moreno has highlighted in his speech that “the legislature is not an employee of power” and has presented the rejection as a studied decision. The Open Parliament, coordinated by the PRI Rubén Moreira, brought together a multitude of experts and government officials for a month and a half to debate the reform. In general, specialized analysts and the private sector warned of the impact that the initiative would have on the certainty of investments and on the increase in electricity rates. On the other hand, the CFE defended the proposal as a necessity to prevent the private sector from controlling all generation.
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