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Privatization Dispute Continues Over Mexico’s Oil

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Seventy-one days of debate on whether Mexico should boost private investment in the country's oil company, PEMEX , began today in Mexico City. Meanwhile, Pemex's general counsel is in La Jolla to address the Institute of the America's annual energy forum this evening. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has more.

Mexico is the U.S.'s third largest supplier of oil. Mexican President Felipe Calderon wants to allow U.S. and other foreign investors to play a bigger role in Mexico's oil industry. The country's oil company PEMEX was nationalized 70 years ago.

The President argues PEMEX now needs outside investment to boost sagging production and explore for new reserves. Calderon had hoped to push a bill through Congress in April. But the opposition blockaded both houses to prevent a quick debate. They argue Calderon's bill opens the door to privatization. Jeremy Martin directs the Institute of the America's energy program. He says "privatization" is the polarizing word and its not accurate.

Martin: It’s accurate to call it an attempt to give PEMEX some more autonomy, the ability to do more work with private companies so that they can be a lot more efficient in how they spend their money and hopefully how they find and produce oil.

Oil accounts for about 40-percent of Mexico's federal budget.

Amy Isackson, KPBS News.

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