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Mexico’s Hugo Chavez wannabe

Granted I am somewhat indifferent to democracy, seeing it as nothing more than a tool for securing limited government (at best) or a mechanism for legitimising proxy theft (at worst), but as so many leftists make such a song and dance about the importance of democracy, it is remarkable to see people like Mexican Hugo Chavez wannabe Lopez Obrador casting it aside when he does not like the way it is headed. His supporters simply seized control of the chambers of both houses of Congress back on 10th April so that they could block government proposals to ease restrictions on private investment in the state oil industry. Obrador does not like the fact he cannot democratically get the results he wants, so he just stops debate on the subject in congress completely. Fair enough. If I was the Mexican government, I would just start ruling by edict until the democratic institutions become functional again, or failing that, just send in the riot cops with instructions to bust some heads to remove some political trespassers.

People opposed to Obrador have made a very effective advertisement likening him to sundry totalitarian thugs. However Obrador has demanded this advertisement be ordered off the air by Mexico’s federal electoral authority, indicating as well as disliking democratic processes he cannot control, he also does not believe in freedom of expression. Quelle surprise.

Well due to the magic of the internet… here it is.


18 comments to Mexico’s Hugo Chavez wannabe

  • Laird

    It would be nice if your video had subtitles for those of us who don’t speak Spanish.

  • Bit like New Labour and the EU with respect to speech laws then.

    “I do not agree with what you say, and I will use whatever means at my disposal to prevent you saying it”.

    Maybe if he had been compared with Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot he might have been happier.

  • It would be nice if your video had subtitles for those of us who don’t speak Spanish.

    Here is a rough translation:

    Who are the ones shutting down parliaments?
    1933: Adolf Hitler in Germany
    1939: Benito Mussolini in Italy
    1973: Augusto Pinochet in Chile
    1913: Victoriano Huerta was the last person to shut down the Mexican parliament, now in 2008 PRD-PT Convergencia has closed down parliament.
    Our democracy is in danger.
    Our peace is at risk.
    Mexico doesn’t deserve this.

  • Reform of Pemex could not come soon enough. It might be behind a subscription barrier, but this article(Link) sums up what is wrong with nationalised oil companies in general. An excerpt:

    The company is desperately in need of yet eschews partnerships with the private sector that would provide the vital cash injection necessary to bring new lifeblood to revive the ailing Mexican giant.

    However, one only has to scratch beneath the surface to see that it is tightfistedness and political paranoia in Congress, rather than Pemex’s own upstream strategy, that are to blame for the state oil company’s perplexing predicament. The emergence of Pemex managers trying to turn around the company’s fortunes has given rise to greater optimism.

    What is happening in Mexico is more than “mala leche”, or good milk gone sour, it’s a simple matter of mathematics.

    Mexican lawmakers have a firm grip on Pemex’s purse strings and the state company’s congressionally-approved budget is barely enough to cover high exploration costs, especially in the Gulf of Mexico where developments run into the billions of dollars.

    Opponents of reform, intoxicated with record oil profits, baulk at changing a system that provides one-third of Mexico’s annual budget. But it is a cock-eyed approach for a state-run enterprise that is “producing itself” out of business by not finding enough new reserves. Take, for example, one mind-boggling aspect of Pemex’s budget. The company’s fiscal obligation increases if the oil price falls below $20 per barrel. That ensures the Mexican state gets paid, no matter what the price of oil is.

    While Congress is content to milk the state’s cash cow, Pemex is going bust unless it finds more oil. The company lacks the expertise to drill deeper into the Gulf of Mexico and has indicated that it may need to forge alliances with private-sector players to this end.

    However, Mexico’s political leadership recoils at the very idea. Pemex, in their thinking, is an extension of the state and virtually every drop of Mexican oil has been codified with the banner of nationalism. Moreover, Mexican law bans other companies from tapping national reserves.

  • nick g.

    But, Perry!!!
    If you let people vote, they might vote the wrong way! Look at what happened in Zimbabwe- the people foolishly voted for parties other than the governing one! How stupid was that? And Parliaments are just as susceptible. People want stability! What’s the point of having a President, unless you’re going to obey his every wish? Parliaments are there to be filled with people who couldn’t earn an honest living otherwise, but you don’t want them running countries! There are limits!

  • Dale Amon

    Link seems to be dead…

  • Paul Marks

    There is method in Obrador’s madness.

    The Mexican government oil company has proved itself very bad at developing new sources of oil.

    If no private involement (and the Mexican government proposals are timid ones) is allowed at all, the amount of oil produced by Mexico will decline over the next few years.

    The Mexican government is dependent on oil for about half its revenue.

    So if all private involvement is blocked then the Mexican government will get into worse and worse financial difficulties.

    Thus giving the left the chance to take power.

    Obrador is a pig, but he is not a fool.

  • Laird

    So Paul, you’re saying that Obrador is deliberately destroying to Mexican economy to increase is hold on power? Does that really make sense? After all, when things get bad enought that there is rioting in the streets, totalitarians may seize control but usually the incumbent ruler ends up at the end of a noose. Is Obrador willing to be a martyr so the PRI can expand its control? Somehow I doubt it.

    Remember Hanlon’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.”

  • Emilio Rivaud


    First, a bit of Mexican history: the oil industry was nationalized in 1938. Prior to that, it was foreign companies that kept the wealth that now contributes to about 35% of Mexico´s annual budget, that is, the money used to keep the country running. Nationalization gave Mexico the possibility to achieve a certain degree of economic development, and that is why a vaste proportion o Mexicans (from 40 to 80%, according to who´s making the poll) oppose any initiative that implies letting private hands into Pemex.
    It is true, nevertheless, that the company has been looted and deprived of the resources it needs to achieve further development. The Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria Petrolero Mexicana -that is, the oil industry workers´union is an old friend of the PRI (Mexico´s former ruling party, that famously lasted 70 years in power “democratically), and a lot of money from Pemex has gone down that drain (during the 2000 elections, for instance, there was a mayor scandal involving the Union´s General Secretary in a 100 million dollar loan from the company to the union, which ended up, illegally, in the PRI´s presidential candidate campaign). The looting has also come from government officials, private contractors (who get a lot of money from not doing what they are supposed to) and, of course, the government´s 30 something percent tax on Pemex revenues. There are many names to this: corruption, incompetence.
    The real condition of the company, on the other hand, is uncertain. According to some, the shallow water oil wells will be depleted within ten years, leaving no choice but to get on with the deep water exploration, in which private investment will be certainly needed. But according to some others, there is plenty of accessible oil reserves to exploit before he have to get into more risky ventures. According to some, the best way to save Pemex from financial ruin is to allow private investment, according to others, it would be best to strengthen it from within the State´s boundaries, by reducing taxes and fighting corruption. The point is, there is no consensus among the experts, the politicians and or the general public as to what need to be done with Pemex.
    Which gets us to the present stand. On March 13th, the government sent a vast array of law initiatives regarding Pemex. It had been announced by PAN (president´s Calderón party) and PRI that everything was ready for the approval. PRD representatives and senators, following López Obrador´s command, seized control of both Chambers with one demand: that before any law initiative was discussed, an ample debate about Pemex took place. As a result, the bill hasn´t been approved, and the details for this ample debate are being discussed. This is no minor issue: the very future of the country depends on its oil, so making a careful desicion is in everyone´s best interest.
    That representatives and senators are ready to follow any command from their leader without any regard to the institutions they belong to, or the people they are supposed to represent, is, simply put, a disgrace to their “high distinction” (as the press releases´s common place goes). This applies to both parts in the story: the PRD and its seizure of the tribunes, and the PRI-PAN with their willingless to approve such an important law without taking into account the opposition (and by this I mean not only PRD, but the experts and the public opinion). But this is not to surprise anyone: institutions, and specially the Chambers, don´t work here. That´s why individuals like López Obrador get a chance to do what they do (and, quite frankly, what he did is nothing compared to what Hitler or Pinochet did: the TV spot is way out of line). But in the meantime, the debate on Pemex will be underway soon, and hopefully, for the best.

    Ps. If my English is unclear at any point, please let me know.

  • mike

    Your English is good Emilio, and thanks for the history.

    Do you really think the Chambers will allow foreign investment into PeMex?

    I suspect that they will – but not yet. My guess is that will only happen once the PRD have taken power.

    Politics is primarily about seizing power – it is only secondarily about the economy, security etc – all such issues and ‘debates’ are merely the means by which politicians pursue power. So the ‘condition’, as you say, of PeMex and its’ possible future, does not have the slightest importance to any serious Mexican politician – except as a way to either maintain or to seize political power.

  • mike

    One more semi-thought before I hobble off to bed…

    Does the prevalence of populist socialism in Latin American countries today owe anything to the memory of the Jesuit missions of the 17th and 18th centuries?

    Or to put it another way – are there people in Venzuela for example, who think about Hugo Chavez in the same way that their predecessors, say ten generations ago, would have thought about their high Jesuit priests?

  • Emilio Rivaud


    Do I think the chambers will allow foreign investment into Pemex? Well, there are already some forms of foreign investment into Pemex, but they are slightly illegal or plainly unconstitutional: all the Chambers need to do is iron the existing laws so this type of contract acquires legal status. And I think they will soon enough, probably before the end of the year, regardless of the debate. The debate, if anything, will help to introduce some left-wing proposed safeguards in order to keep Pemex from being completely bought by Exxon or Shell.
    I dont´t quite understand why you say that foreign investment will happen when PRD seizes power. First, the PRD is allegedly against any form of foreign investment. This could be a lie, part of some elaborate strategy to undermine Calderon´s government, like someone pointed out, but it´s more likely a plain demagogic posture to get some voters on their side. Either way, the only form in which PRD could seize power is by winning the next presidential elections, that will occur in 2012, and I don´t think foreign investors (the ones who are really pushing this initiative) will wait that long; neither would this long wait be on the benefit of Pemex. The other option would be López Obrador doing some á la Chávez move to seize power, a “democratic” coup d´Etat, or something of the sort, that, I believe, isn´t feasible at the moment, if only because both the Army and the US are strong supporters of Calderon.

  • Emilio Rivaud

    The newly elected (last Sunday) president of Paraguay was indeed a Jesuit priest. So I guess there´s just something about Jesuit…

  • Paul Marks


    Economic decline would not “increase the hold on power” of Obrador, it would make it more likely that the left could gain power – via elections perhaps.

    Politics 101.

    Emilio Rivaud:

    Your English is better than mine (and it is supposed to be my native language) – but I do not agree with your view of history on the nationalization question.

    Nationalizing the the oil fields did not give Mexico a chance of economic development – it reduced its chances of economic development.

    You will be aware of the old joke “not only did the Americans steal half of Mexico, they stole the half with the paved roads”. Nationalism did not serve Mexican economic development well.

    However, your examination of the present Mexican political situation seems very good – but then you are Mexican and have a better knowledge of the situation.

    I do not think O. will win – after all there is too much at stake for him to be allowed to undermine future oil development.

    I am more concerned with other matters – such as the pledge of the Calderon government to provide “free” health care for everyone.

    This pledge is not possible to achieve – at least not if the health care is to be of a good standard.

  • Laird

    Paul, that was my entire point: that it didn’t make sense for Obrador to be engineering economic decline since it would be bad for him personally, which I thought was the argument you were making. Perhaps I misunderstood you, and evidently I didn’t make myself clear. Sorry.

  • Gringo

    During the 2006 Presidential election, there was an ad that put together Lopez Obrador’s rants alongside those of Hugo Chavez. Lopez Obrador was able to get the ad pulled.

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