MEXICO: “Renationalize Mexico’s Energy Industry!”
• “Renationalize Mexico’s Energy Industry!” – by Juan Carlos Vargas
• Big Business Denounces López Obrador’s Energy Reform Plan — by Alan Benjamin
• The USMCA “Free Trade” Agreement and Mexico’s Environment — A.B.
• Forging the Fight for an Independent Workers Party in Mexico — by Juan Carlos Vargas
• For a Party of the Working Class and All the Oppressed, For National Emancipation and Socialism! (Manifesto)
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“Renationalize Mexico’s Energy Industry!”
By Juan Carlos Vargas
“Renationalize the Energy Industry!” is the headline of the latest issue of Transición, the newspaper published by the Internationalist Communist League (LCI), Mexican section of the Fourth International (OCRFI).
On October 1, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented to the Mexican Congress a proposed constitutional reform intended to restore the control by the Federal Electricity Commission (a public agency) over 54% of electricity production, which has been privatized for years.
This constitutional reform would cancel all the successive modifications of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution that have allowed the privatization of the energy sector, under direct pressure from the United States, whether led by the Republicans or the Democrats. U.S. imperialism has consistently sought to get its hands on its neighbor’s natural resources.
López Obrador’s announcement, Transición explains, immediately provoked an outcry from institutions linked to U.S. interests. The Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO), for example, denounced the proposed energy reform bill as a “violation of the rule of law.” [For the U.S. Big Business’ reaction see the article below.]
Not surprisingly, corporate opponents of the bill used the phony argument of “defending the environment” to justify their privatization of the energy industry. [See the article below on Constellation Brands and the threat of bringing the Mexican government up on charges for violating the United States-Mexico-Canada Treaty (USMCA).]
For its part, the government of López Obrador is organizing a campaign on the theme: “Electricity belonged to you, they took it from you. We’re going to give it back to you!” This statement, however, is only half true, the editorial in Transición explains, given that López Obrador’s project concerns the renationalization of only 54% of the energy sector, with 46% remaining in the hands of the private sector.
A true policy of regaining national sovereignty would require 100% renationalization, even if it means overturning the private ownership of Mexico’s resources by the U.S. energy multinationals and challenging the USMCA treaty, which López Obrador himself agreed to sign.
Moreover, López Obrador has no intention of calling for popular mobilization to help him impose his energy reform. He is looking for an alliance with members of the PRI, the corrupt former single party of the Mexican oligarchy.
However, Transición explains, the Mexican people have a powerful aspiration to regain their national sovereignty. They rightly feel that they have been robbed of their oil, their mines, their energy sector, their water – that is, robbed of everything that has been privatized over many decades for the benefit of U.S. capitalists. That is why polls show that 70% of Mexicans support the president’s proposals.
This is also why, Transición explains, LCI activists are fighting for the unity of workers’ and people’s organizations in mass mobilizations to secure the renationalization of the energy sector. Such a mobilization would inevitably pose the need to reverse all previous privatizations and break with the USMCA treaty and all other forms of subordination to U.S. imperialism.
In this framework and with the demands, Mexican workers will be able to support independently López Obrador’s constitutional reform, the first step toward the renationalization of the entire energy sector.
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Big Business Denounces López Obrador’s Energy Reform Plan
On October 1, Reuters ran a lead article titled, “Mexico launches reform to put state in charge of power market.” The authors write:
“Mexico’s leftist government on Friday pitched a constitutional reform to boost state control of the electricity market, in a move to reverse business-friendly energy legislation enacted by the previous administration.
“The reform announced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador foresees giving the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) over half of the power market and putting it in charge of setting terms for private generators.
“‘We are trying to compensate for the damage caused by the so-called energy reform,’ López Obrador told a news conference, referring to the previous administration’s 2013-14 opening of the energy market to private capital.”
López Obrador’s ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies lack the two-thirds majority in Congress required to pass constitutional changes, and some analysts are skeptical that he can achieve it.
Mexico’s main business lobby said approval of the reform would “mark a point of no return, generating irreversible damage to the rule of law, and to the competitiveness of the country.”
Reactions in the United States
The Business Coordinating Council in the United States issued a statement affirming that, “The imposition of this reform violates the international treaties of which Mexico is part.”
The American Petroleum Institute, a top U.S. oil lobby, stated that “López Obrador’s new energy policy would undermine investor confidence and violate Mexico’s trade commitments.”
In a public letter to the Biden administration, the API wrote: “The Mexican president’s energy reform would hinder new private investment in the energy sector as well as destroy the value of already operating private assets in violation of Mexico’s commitments under the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).” (Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2021)
According to Reuters (October 6):
“López Obrador, who took office in 2018, has staked his reputation on reviving highly indebted oil company Petroleos Mexicanos and power utility Comision Federal de Electricidad.
“The energy nationalist has often said that his predecessors “deliberately destroyed” the state energy companies to leave the market in the hands of foreigners.
“‘López Obrador’s changes to energy laws likely contravene Mexico’s commitments to nondiscriminatory treatment and investment,’ the American Petroleum Institute stated in the letter signed by API President Michael Sommers.
The API letter concluded with a call for a special meeting of the Mexican and U.S. trade representatives to ensure that this proposed energy reform bill is not approved by the Mexican Congress. — Alan Benjamin
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The USMCA “Free Trade” Agreement and Mexico’s Environment
In previous issues of The Organizer, we have reported on the massive destruction of Mexico’s environment caused by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its successor, the United States-Mexico-Canada Treaty (USMCA). One of the examples that we highlighted was the case of Constellation Brands, the U.S.-owned brewery that produces the Modelo and Corona beers.
A few years ago, Constellation Brands began the construction of a gigantic brewery in Mexicali, Mexico (on the U.S. border) in violation of Mexico’s federal laws, as such a plant would severely deplete the region’s water table – with 53 million gallons of water each year re-directed to beer production for the U.S. market — thereby doing untold harm to the 1 million-plus people living in drought-ridden Mexicali and surroundings, not to mention their crops and their environment.
Constellation Brands, with the complicity of the right-wing government of the state of Baja California, ignored the pleas from the local activists and civic leaders to shut down construction of the brewery. Activists gathered the requisite number of signatures to place an official referendum on the Mexicali ballot: Should Constellation Brands remain in Mexicali or should it leave? In March 2020, the overwhelming majority voted that Constellation Brands should stop the construction of the plant and leave Mexicali immediately.
When, in the aftermath of the referendum, the federal government under López Obrador stated that it would not grant a water-supply permit to the nearly completed $1.4 billion brewery, an agreement was reached that Constellation Brands would dismantle its Mexicali pant and move it to southeastern Mexico, where water is plentiful.
But the company has continued building its Mexicali plant, hoping that the tribunal set up under the USMCA — a “free trade” treaty that López Obrador supported enthusiastically — will force the Mexican government to renew the company’s water-supply permit and authorize the completion of the brewery. Activists also have speculated that Constellation Brands may be waiting till 2024, when López Obrador leaves office and a new, more corporate-friendly government takes office. — A.B.
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Forging the Fight for an Independent Workers Party in Mexico
By Juan Carlos Vargas
The Organization of Workers and People (OPT) emerged 10 years ago in response to the call by the Mexican Electrical Workers union (SME) to build an independent national working-class political organization. It managed to bring together hundreds of activists throughout the country, with a program to rescue Mexico’s sovereignty from the claws of U.S. imperialism and to defend social and labor rights.
Unfortunately, the OPT’s initial momentum was stifled and its message diluted by the figure of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the emergence of MORENA, the political movement that arose in support of AMLO. At present, there are few active OPT chapters throughout the country.
It was in 2013 that the campaign for the electoral registration of both organizations (the OPT and MORENA) coincided. For thousands of political and community activists, the possibility of stopping “neoliberal” policies and removing the PRI and the PAN from the government was more achievable with the electoral strength and draw of López Obrador, so they opted to support MORENA, relegating the task of building an independent working-class party till another time.
During these past eight years, the social resistance and aspiration for change among working people and the oppressed were channeled in the electoral arena by MORENA, which renewed and reinforced once again the bourgeois-nationalist current that had previously been represented by the PRD and Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in the 1980s.
AMLO’s triumph in 2018 was seen by broad sectors of the working class as their own victory. Millions of workers, with their vote, gave a mandate to AMLO to break with the policies of subjugation of the Mexican nation to U.S. imperialism. But after three years of AMLO’s administration, these expectations have been frustrated, given the continuity, for the most part, of the same-old policies by AMLO and his cabinet.
In this new situation, the discussion about the need to create an independent working-class political instrument has resurfaced with full force, including the discussion about the need to promote a working-class political alternative in the presidential elections of 2024. This is a topic that has been expressed in various forums in the social and trade union movements, especially in the forums organized by the New Workers Central (NCT, the union federation launched by the SME).
During the last two meetings of the National Political Council of the NCT, union leaders and activists spoke up in favor of proposing a campaign to build an independent workers’ party.
Specifically, the possibility of seeking the OPT’s electoral registration next year was raised, as was the need to reactivate the OPT.
It is in this overall context that many militant activists who have participated in the OPT decided to launch a broad call for the building of a Workers Party. Their call [see below] was issued at a national meeting last November 20, where it was decided to form the Movement for an Independent Workers Party (MPOI).
The MPOI seeks to be a space for dialogue and common action with labor and community leaders and activists – a space that is not limited to those who 10 years ago proposed this task through the OPT. Today, the MPOI seeks to attract other sectors of workers and community activists anxious to wage the fight to wrest political power from the Mexican ruling class and its U.S. sponsors – which was the original intent of the call of the SME when it created the OPT.
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For a Party of the Working Class and All the Oppressed, For National Emancipation and Socialism!
(excerpts from Nov. 20 Manifesto of the Movement for an Independent Workers Party)
We, the undersigned labor and community activists gathered on November 20, 2021 in the first national meeting for an independent workers’ party, address ourselves to the Mexican working class, women, youth, and indigenous communities. We call on one and all to join the initiative to build a party of the working class of the city and countryside. We call for:
– A political organization to promote joint action,
– A tool to achieve the satisfaction of our demands,
– A regroupment for class solidarity,
– A party for the struggle for our historic project, a socialist society.
Our aspiration is to build, in the medium term, a political organization that will serve as an instrument for the workers and all the oppressed.
It is necessary that we organize ourselves independently to fight for our rights — against exploitation, injustice, and plunder. Only in this manner will we be able to offer a way out of the crisis of the capitalist system, a crisis that is expressed in the loss of rights, the plundering of natural resources, the destruction of the environment, violence and decomposition — a crisis that is dragging humanity toward barbarism.
The working class internationally is experiencing the results of the crisis of the capitalist system. The capitalist powers seek by all means to impose their interests and place the burden of the survival of this system on the shoulders of the workers and the oppressed peoples and nations. The pandemic derived from the appearance of COVID-19 has come to aggravate an economic crisis that had been brewing since at least 2018. …
The phenomenon of mass migration has been unleashed globally. Millions of people have fled their nations in search of a better future due to the lack of alternatives in their places of origin, devastated by low wages, the plundering of natural resources, corruption, war and violence.
In the midst of this chaos, there is also the ecological crisis, which threatens to unleash natural disasters never seen before: extreme flooding, hurricanes, droughts… that call into question the very existence of humankind. …
In Mexico, national sovereignty and social rights were handed over to foreigners by the PRI and PAN governments, which through corruption and outright theft, privatized hundreds of public enterprises built with the taxes of the Mexican people, among them the railroads, banks, telephone, ports, airports, highways … together with the subsequent planned deterioration of the services that are still public (health, education).
Mining, oil and electricity concessions were granted, and today foreign companies control more than 50% of the national territory.
Cheap labor was offered to the transnational corporations. Wages have lost their purchasing power for decades. The violation of labor rights is a constant that has led to the precariousness and informality of the majority of the Mexican proletariat.
The organized working class has been subjugated by charro [bureaucratic] leaders, who are but mafias and traitors who have enriched themselves, allied with governments and transnational corporations.
The militarization and violence of organized crime have become generalized throughout the territory, with its consequent social decomposition and violence that have led to the forced migration of hundreds of thousands to the United States and the death of thousands more.
To ensure the continuity of these policies, the Mexican Constitution was “reformed” to legalize looting. Agreements were signed such as the USMCA and the Merida Plan….
It is in this context that, in 2018, millions of Mexicans decided to vote for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, using his candidacy to try to put a stop to these policies and remove the PRI and PAN mafia from power.
AMLO’s Bonapartist government
López Obrador channeled the population’s profound discontent and desire for change, in opposition to so-called neoliberalism. For millions of Mexicans, the vote for AMLO represented the need to reverse all the privatization reforms, to reclaim Mexico’s sovereignty over its resources, and to remove all the corrupt politicians from political office.
Three years later, AMLO’s government has fallen way short of expectations. He has made only partial progress in some of the things he promised in his campaign. He has implemented a series of social programs that are mere palliatives. The fight against corruption has not touched the big politicians or officials. He has maintained the militarization of the country and has agreed with the U.S. government to implement the USMCA and the Migratory Pact.
He has not carried out the great transformations that were expected. Having the overwhelming majority in both chambers of Congress for three years, he missed the opportunity to positively reform the constitution and repeal all the laws inherited from the neoliberals.
To a great extent, all these failures are due to the fact that López Obrador and MORENA refuse to break with the old regime, preferring to negotiate with the business elites and continue giving artificial life to parties such as PAN, PRI, Verde, PRD, PES … and politicians from these parties who have switched to MORENA.
López Obrador has refused to mobilize his social and electoral base, fearing that the masses will overtake his government and its officials from the left. His party, with a few exceptions, has denied ballot spots to real social fighters, giving them instead to the characters of the old regime, who are hated by the workers.
These actions have provoked a divorce between the organized social movements and the AMLO government, which has refused to provide solutions to the workers’ and people’s demands. In the best of cases, the government only offers an endless dialogue that does not attain any results; in the worst of cases, its officials act as in the old times, criminalizing and repressing the social protest movements and strikes, such as occurred with the repression of the women’s demonstrations, the university strikes, and the SUTNOTIMEX strike.
AMLO still enjoys popular support. The situation is contradictory because the workers do not perceive any better alternative at this time.
That is why we need a workers’ party; we need a workers’ party to fight imperialism and the reactionary forces.
Meanwhile, the right wing is strengthening itself and trying to capitalize on the contradictions of the AMLO government. Extreme right-wing groups like FRENA, or parties like the PES, which are the advance guard of fascism in our country, have arisen. In the name of the struggle against abortion, these forces have taken to the streets by the thousands, raising their Cristeros, anti-rights, anti-communist banners. We must put a stop to them!
The limits of AMLO’s bourgeois-nationalist program are becoming more evident to broad sectors of the exploited and oppressed. The experience of 30 years of PRD and nine years of MORENA have shown that under the leadership of bourgeois-nationalist forces there can be no big changes that benefit the working class, that we cannot expect politicians to meet our demands from above.
The experience after three years of government of this bourgeois current is that the working class needs its own political instrument to impose its interests and mobilize the whole of the oppressed and exploited population.
The basic principles of the party we want to build, which we put forward to discussion, include the following:
- Political Independence, independence with respect to the bosses, the authorities and the State, without submitting to the bourgeois parties, without making commitments that compromise the independence of the working class. Presenting itself as a politically distinct force, but with the pledge to promote of united mobilization.
- Financial independence, an organization that is self-financing with the dues and contributions of its militants and sympathizers, that rejects patronage, that does not accept State subsidies that corrupt the organizations, nor the financing of NGOs or churches. Political independence can only be guaranteed by economic independence.
- Consistent defense of the interests of the working class, the popular and exploited sectors, putting above any consideration, political calculation or conjuncture the interests of the working class as a whole.
- Unity in action, to strive for the unity of the working class, in its demands, in its mobilizations, putting into practice concrete solidarity.
- Internationalism, in support of the struggles of the workers of the whole world, of the oppressed nations and of the exploited in general.
- Internal party democracy as the fundamental axis of the struggle of the working class.
- Internal democracy as a fundamental axis: decisions should be taken through collective discussion, seeking consensus and by majority vote. The leadership should obey the rank and file and lead by obeying.
The militants must always be guided by respect for these principles and ethical values.
We want to initiate a process of dialogue and discussion of the program needed by the working class and the people of Mexico. It would serve no purpose to proclaim today or in the coming months a party with a bombastic name if it is not supported by a network of activists and leaders who act and are rooted in the class struggle.
We want to initiate a process in which we know our struggles, act in common and show solidarity with the struggles in Mexico and the world.
We believe that as first common tasks we can:
- advance in the struggle for the renationalization of what has been privatized, particularly by launching a campaign of critical support for President AMLO’s energy initiative which, although insufficient for us, is a point of support, to dialogue with thousands of workers ready to fight.
- Participate in the Open World Conference of Paris 2022, promoted by the International Workers’ Committee.
Diego Rivera mural in Mexico City: Workers of the World Unite!