Right now, Mexico and the US are faced with what can be termed police brutality. Having lived here for awhile now, I think the violence in Mexico has been fed by the US , not only because of the purchase from Mexico of drugs and the sale to narcos of weapons. The US has armed Mexico's police, egged on the "War on Drugs," and Obama has treated Peña Nieto as a "friend." The Administration in the US appears to know nothing about Mexico, nothing outside what EPN and buddies want it to know. So when the 43 students were massacred, it was outside the US area of interest. You hardly saw it discussed in the NYTimes.
These 43 students were probably killed much more coldly than Michael Brown was. They were seen, it seems, as a group that had found itself in a position inconvenient for the mayor's wife who was planning to give a speech that night. The students were turned over to members of a narco gang who presumably were told to get rid of them. The terrible thoughlessness that went into their massacre is blinding: they ended up as ashes in garbage bags. In Guerrero, the state where this took place, the mayor and his wife have been imprisoned and the governor of the state has resigned. But the US has really said nothing to change anything, let alone rescind some of the funds which pay for the violence. In an article in Foreign Policy, Roger Ackerman has described this situation in more detail in an article called Why America is to Blame for Mexico's Carnage and Corruption.
In the United States, the Grand Jury finally emerged to say that it didn't have enough evidence to call for a trial for Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown. There is a tangled history for this. The prosecutor who many have said acted more like a defense attorney for Darren Wilson is the son of a police officer killed by a black man. Could he be fair? As in Mexico, and even more so, when we see police now we often see them fully armed in military-style geer riding in armored vehicles. I can't imagine that they don't see the crowds they are approaching as The Enemy, not people they are supposed to serve. In the US the Michael Brown killling is not an isolated event. Police violence flares all over the place. And the President of the US says that we are a nation of laws so that we must respect the Grand Jury's statement. Yet corruption has been eating at the structure of our country for as long as we've been a country. It's getting worse, thoughand many people have come to assume the worst. In an article in The Guardian, Gary Young wrote, "The trouble is that the United States, for far longer than it has been a 'nation of laws,' has been a nation of injustice. And in the absence of basic justice such laws can amount to little more than codified tyranny. When a white cop, Darren Wilson, shoots an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, dead and then is not indicted, the contradiction is glaring. For a world where it is not only legal for people to shoot you dead while you walk down the street, but where they can do so in the name of the law, is one in which some feel they have nothing to lose. And, in the words of James Baldwin: 'There is nothing so dangerous as a man who has nothing to lose. You do not need 10 men. Only one will do.'" This situation undermines respect for the law because the law for blacks more than white comes down on them like an offensive weapon against which they have little defense. The whole article can be found here.
In both Mexico and the US, there has been an outpouring of support from people from one side of each country to the other. In both countries, there is a fear of lawlessness by those who are supposed to protect society. In both countries, a single event seems the catalyst for change. In both, it is possible that nothing much will change yet.
"Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto esta currently en Los Angeles where he met with a variety of Mexican groups. He told them that other states in the US, "unlike California...have not evolved and still skimp on recognizing, and even worse, the rights of migrants."
"This, he added, with the imposicion of discriminatory measures which affect bilateral ties is ethically reprehensible and and distance the principles, the US and Mexico, from shared responsiblity and from being good neighbors.
"In front of some 500 representatives of clubs and other Mexican organizations, Peña Nieto did not cite specific cases of this mistreatment of nationals, but insisted that he only has one thing to say to those who support exclusion, discrimination or opposition to diversity: the future will show them their ethical error, time will show us right.'
"He also spoke of the debate about migratory reform in the United States and said that the position of Mexico is very clear: 'We want to be a factor of cohesion, not of division, with full respect for the sovereignty of the United States.
"He also said that this migratory reform ought to become reality because it deals with a question of justice for those who support development of this [US?] society.
"In addition to delivering scholarships for Dreamers (youth of Mexican origin studying in the US and whom he congratulated for their fight to push the migration debate) President Peña also annunced some measures to simplify consular bureaucracy." My translation.
And then there's energy reform....
To read that in the US somewhere between 51 and 57% of Americans support Israel in this current onslaught of violence in the Gaza strip, and even worse, only 14% "sympathize with the Palestinians is pretty shocking as I sit here in Xico, in our colonia. I haven't spoken directly to my neighbors about this, but I am pretty sure the most of the sympathy lies with the Palestinians. The support is not strident. In newspapers horror at the terrible destruction of lives and landscape dominates, and not just in La Jornada. This is a link from today's Jornada of an Israeli attack that hit a street where two ambulances had arrived to rescue victims. It is very graphic. Maybe you all should watch it, but beware, nothing is hidden from you.
Enrique Peña Nieto ran for election as representative of "the new face of the PRI." Energy is one of the four or five grand areas in which he wanted to undertake structural reform in order , as he put it, to break old patterns and put Mexico on a path to growth. At the moment, the path appers murky and the Mexican public has given him very low ratings. But still, he and his government persist.
Here, I am dealing with energy reform efforts, first with the personnel.
Below, center, you see the head of Pemex, Emilio Lozoya Austin, in an appearance before the Commission of Energy in the Chamber of Deputies. (Pemex is the state-owned oil and gas company; the head has influence as if he was a member of the President's Cabinet and is listed as one of the ten men who has the most influence on Peña Nieto.) Lozoya Austin is a politician and economist of considerable stature not only among the educated Mexican elite, but internationally in organizations such as the World Economic Forum, which named him a Global Young Leader in 2011. He has a degree in economics from the Institúto Económico Autónomo de México and in law from UNAM. Like many of his peers in the PRI he has a degree from Harvard- His is in public administration and international development.
His father, incidentally, was Secretary of Energy under President Carlos Salinas Gortari who was in office prior to the election of Vicente Fox of the PAN.
Lozoyo Austin is a member of a rich and established family in Mexico as is his wife, the former Mariela Eckes Fassbender. His family's ties with the PRI are also of long standing. This group seems almost to be a state within a state. It is the 1- or 2% of Mexico but with ties of longer and stronger duration than those binding the increasingly infamous 1% in the United States.
On as the right is a picture of the Secretary of Energy, Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, former senator and former governor of Quintana Roo. He comes from a prominent and very rich Quintana Roo family and is apparently a beloved son of that state. He and his family also have their fingers in a number of energy pie. When Coldwell was appointed by Peña Nieto as Secretary of Energy he didn't have to face any questioning from or anythhe Mexican Chamber of Deputies or anyone else. THe President gets to appoint whom he wants to, period. Thus, when the issue of energy reform heated up, Coldwell had no problem openly asking cohorts in the energy industry to be sure to support the reform so that those who opposed it wouldn't defeat it. The Coldwell-energy connection has been addressed frequently and angrily in the Mexican press. Here is a link to an article by Denise Dresser in Spanish in La Reforma, a major Mexico City newspaper. La Reforma is a subscription only publication so you can either get yourself a fifteen day free trial as I did or read a good summary of it here on Aristegui's noricias page. Animal Político has a good article on the Coldwell energy connections with Pemex here, also in Spanish.
Here in our very local lives our rainy season began quite early and has been marked by drenching downpours. During the dryer winter, the landscape looks almost like that in, say, New York State in the summer. After the rains have cleansed and drenched plants and rivers and earth and people and houses, it becomes much more jungle-like, with the branches and leaves pressing their abundance against each other. The green becomes almost overwhelming.
Yesterday we went to a party at some friends' house in the hills above what I think is the west side of Coatepec. A string quartet provided us with a concert of exceptional quality. I think the cellist was in the Orquesta de Xalapa and the other three were students, but I'm not sure. Everyone brought something to eat and something to drink (many bottles of red wine, one of white which was ours). We sat out on the open porch cushioned by the lush countryside. The people who live in the area have banded together to form a group to protect the environment which is under pressure from developers. I remember once reading an interview with a woman who had lived in suburban Boston before it was suburban saying that the developers advertised the area as beautiful and rural and used that as a selling point as they built row upon row of houses to smother the fields and woods. It takes a little longer for that to happen here, but happen it does. Our area has a reputation for being more tranquil than a lot of places and it of course attracts people looking for a quiet that can't exist in crowds.
We gave our godchild in the neighborhood a camera for her fifteenth birthday. Yesterday we took her, her sister and a friend to Coatepec to pick a bunch of the pictures to print.The girls bought a kilo of peaches which are just coming into season. We're probably half-way through the Mangos de Manila season. They are my absolute favorite fruit in the world. Succulent, so sweet, and just a hint of sour. I especially like sucking on the pit which is kind of like sucking on an ice cream pop, but it lasts longer and has better flavor. Lots of the flesh of the plant sticks to it. Also around now are tiny purple plums, pomegranates, some pineapples, bananas of several kinds, oranges again, and some fruits that are pretty common here but still exotic to me whose names I can't remember.
Some friends of ours from Coatepec are building a house on the high-up edge of our colonia next to the football fields. It is large and has quite an interesting shape, taking as its guide the shape of the terreno's front borders wchich form an acute angle. The second floor has still another angle. As people here do, they have been constructing it as the money becomes available. The husband is the albañil and chief construction worker.
That's all for now.
After several days in Boston, I am once again home in rainy Ursulo Galván. My kids and grandkids live in Boston and its environs as do some very good friends. Every time I go, I wish I could find some way to get beamed to Boston and back here, a la Star Trek, because the trip is not short, especially coming home. Unless you want to risk missing the only flight to Veracruz until the next night you have to wait over four hours in Houston. In spite of the title of this post, it is not really going to be about contrasts between Boston and The Greater Xico Metropolitan Area (thanks again, DT), although there are many, but between Italy and Mexico. And only briefly, at that.
In Sunday's New York Times, there is already online an article with the enticing title
beautifully written, captivating, and melancholy by Marco de Martino describing Rosario Crocetta, current president of Sicily's governing body, and also life in Sicily, or rather political life in Sicily and Crocetta's perhaps doomed efforts to change it. Sicily appears like an evil caricature of Mexico, with corruption
Crocetta, center, with two bodyguards, Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum for The New York Times
and extortion and threats of murder, often carried out, shadowing every move a politician or a businessman makes.
"Everyone" (whoever everyone is) knows that corruption and so on are also rampant in Mexico. But it seems to me, it is not on anything near the scale it is in Sicily (or possibly in the US, or at least the Highway Department of the State of Texas [just kidding]). It has been charged, for instance, that corruption played a role in the apparently shoddy highway construction on the Autopista del Sol between Mexico City and Acapulco where landslides during the continuing torrential rains caused considerable damage.
In Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran reports that the giant corporations of Mexico have written a letter to Peña Nieto complaining of frequent extortion threats in public works projects, especially in northern Mexico. The leaders of these companies are the richest men in Mexico (and some, in the world). This of course leads me to one of my favorite tangents: aren't these business leaders also guilty of some crime against the ordinary citizenry of Mexico and the world?) . Insight Crime concludes that corruption of this sort increased dramatically under Calderón My point with all of this is that in Mexico, people can COMPLAIN about it, can put possible perpetrators on the defensive, etc. etc. Mexico does not feel like Sicily.
And, of course, Boston is not squeaky clean, either.
Read Marco de Martino's article. It's really why I wrote the post.
For a couple of weeks I have been translating parts of columns and news articles to post here. What happens is that I start one, don't get it quite finished, then something else develops out there in the world, and, I think to myself, that's more interesting, so I start another one. Events seem to be tumbling over each other.
Government proposals for reforms in education, energy and taxation have stirred the political pot. I reckon everyone I know, and that covers quite a spectrum, has ideas on these. And the icing on the cake -- the melting icing which has spilled out of its pot in way too much abundance -- is the weather.For us here in Colonia Ursulo Galván, it's been almost unceasing rain for days and days and days. We haven't had much flooding where we are, but probably as dangerous are the mudslides and landslides of various sizes. On our walks, even along shortish roadcuts not covered in dense vegetation, there are minislides, one after another.
The worst problems have occured in the State of Guerrero, where Acupulco dwells. Acupulco itself has virtually been cut off from the rest of the country, the main highway, in what now seems an ironic name, the Highway of the Sun, to Mexico City being closed as is the airport. All runways were flooded.
A street in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, drowning in mud. From La Jornada, 16 de septiembere, 2013
Forty thousand tourists have been stranded, there is no phone service, no internet, and in some places, no electricity. And, I gather, virtually all streets have been flooded. In
A street in Acapulco. Photo from La Jornada, 16 de septiembre 2013
Guerrero, things are especially bad because two storms blanketing much of Mexico, Ingrid and Manuel, seem to have collided. The clouds just stay and stay, dumping what I believe are record amounts of rain.
Here in our area, a friend says in July we had 20"of rain, in August, 25". I think we've already had more rain in September than in either of those two months, but I'm not sure. I do know that roads and walkways are slick with slime, mold and mud are crawling up outside walls, paint is blistering and peeling. Seeds have swum out of our garden to find other homes. Our clothes are damp in our drawers, too, though this happens every rainy season.
The teachers' strike, for which I have a lot of unposted stuff, went on through the rain, and schools were closed not only in Mexico City in protest, but here in our area, too. Today everyone here was going to go back to school , but the governor has ordered theschools closed because of the weather. The strikers more or less (some dispute about this) left the Zocalo in Mexico City in time for El Grito which is given in pueblos large and small all over Mexico at around 11:00 at night on the 15th of September to mark the beginning of Mexican Independence Day. The Grito in Mexico City is given by El Presidente, and no matter what you think about current politics, it is quite a wonderful and stirring ritiual. This link should take you to a video of it. I am too lazy to embed it at the moment. The Mexican Revolution is said to have begun in the pueblo of Dolores (now Dolores Hidalgo) in the State of Guanajuato when the local priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla who was involved in a plot to overthrow the government, and some criollo associates first freed a number of prisoners. Afterwards Hidalgo ordered the church bells rung and gathered some parishioners on the steps of the church where he urged them to revolt. They still ring the bells as part of El Grito and call out the names of the heroes of the Revolution. You really ought to watch the video. For a pretty concise version of El Grito, look here.
More soon. In closing, I would just like to say that I HATE Windows 8 which I have on my new laptop. It complicates even the easiest tasks.
Watching stock markets and oil prices today in the face of threatened US military strikes against Syria is reason enough for Mexico to keep control of its oil: to keep it out of the hands of an unstable world. Certainly a much more impressive voice than mine has recently said the same thing. In La Jornada today, Juan Antonio Zuñiga reports on Joseph Stiglitz's reasoning on why Mexico ought to safeguard its oil. Stiglitz won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001 and is on the faculty of Columbia University where he is a University Professor and co-chair of the University's Committee on Global Thought. He is considered one of the top economists in the world and is a frequent critic of globalization as it exists today and of free-market fundamentalism. He understands that free markets don't do much for ordinary people. He sees things more subtly. I have put in the same link to the Wikipedia article several times in the hope that you will follow it and learn about this man.
I have translated parts of Zuñiga's article in La Jornada, somewhat roughly (it's late).
Zuñiga writes that "Mexico ought to safeguard ownership of its petroleum to benefit its population. It ought to take special care in the details of secondary laws because 'the devil is in the details, which those secondary reforms are.".... :
"Furthermore, he [Stiglitz] recommended that the next Hacendaria reform program focus, before anything else, on taxing pollution, and also monopolies and oligopolies since those are an important source of resources. He indicated that the reforms which are promoted in Mexico ought to target the eradication of monopolies and oligopolies, reduce the enormous inequality [which exists in the country] and in general benefit the whole population, not only a few.
"....[H]e suggested the adoption of six precepts which should be included in petroleum reform. The first is transparency in all stages of public procurement....
"He described competency as the second precept, [which should be gained] by means of competitive bidding and good design. [There should be] good contracts, with strong incentives, but which [nonetheless] commit (the signatories) to assume obligations like care of the environment; that assume commitments so that the benefits of oil and gas will be shared....
"Stiglitz maintained that Mexico needs technologies to exploit its resources. He said 'there is no reason that Petrobras [the Brazilian state-owned petroleum company] should have them and not Mexico.' He pointed out that 'well-implemented reforms can be the spur for moving ahead.'
"In a country where the high-income ten percent of the population has an income twenty six times greater than those at a lower level, fiscal reform can play an important role in diminishing this inequality...
"'The reform agenda is impressive. Mexico has taken its future into its own hands and it is very good to be here, in Mexico at this moment.' But he also warned that the renewal of economic activity in the US is not exactly as has been announced. Indeed, he said, "the deception of the North American recovery has provoked a leakage of foreign currencies from emerging countries. We [the United States] are not in an important recovery."
It just seems to me that if Mexico were (miraculously) to reform its petroleum industry and keep it Mexican, it would give it a tremendous leg up as the world around it has increasing difficulties.
I believe every gas station in Mexico is a Pemex.
And most of them look pretty much like this.
Pemex is Mexico's state-owned petroleum company.
Pemex is the second biggest producer in the western hemisphere following the US. Canada is third.
The US imports 72% of its crude oil from Canada, Saudi Arabia, MEXICO, Venezuela and Iraq, in that order. These are the largest providers of crude to the US.
Mexico is the fourth largest crude oil producer in the world; the 11th biggest integrated oil company, 11th in crude oil reserves, 13th in refining capacity and 15th in natural gas production.
Mexico has a triple B (stable) rating from Fitch and S&P and a Baa1 (whatever that means) from Moody's,
Until 2006 it was the biggest company in Latin America.
Its production, reserves (including known, probable and possible), and its sales have been sliding in recent years.
This is of concern to US energy interests because they would like to increase their use of Mexican petroleum in order to lessen dependence on Venezuela and Iraq and other countries considered unstable. American energy companies would also like to get their claws into Mexican oil production like they used to be.
La Torre Ejecutiva de Pemex in Mexico City
Here I would like to insert a personal note. Very little of what I say below has to do with environmental issues which are a huge concern when thinking about global warming and other environmental concerns. Mexico does seem to have a better stance on global warming, expanding alternative energy sources, etc. etc. than the US does, but I do not know how this will play out in the future.
Why is Pemex slipping?
Problems with corruption, inefficiency, and holding on to too much staff; equipment and infrastructure that is sometimes old and not well-maintained, resulting in some large, destructive explosions, leakage and other environmental damage, and lack of certain technical expertise and materials seem to be among the main causes.
When I was getting my Masters in Social Work at Washington University, I had a surprising and excellent course on the life of organizations. I wish I could still remember the professor's name. He was very interested in breaking down false dichotomies: private vs. public, for instance. A BIG for instance. I'm not going to try to summarize the course, but simply want to say that among his points were that size and age could lead to decay and that all organizations needed to have infusions of new people and new ideas from time to time to keep them going. From this perspective, private vs. public does not seem to be issue. However, some nations have constitutions which still undergird their existence and which try at least to direct governments to take into account the good of society. Companies, as far as I know, don't. Anyway...
If you have read anything about Pemex in the US press recently, you will have seen Pemex referred to as something almost sacrosanct in Mexico. A little more glibly, someone referred to it in the same breath as tortillas and mole, as if the Mexicans simply dragged around some stuff with which they identified their culture. But Pemex is a state-owned organization not least because one president in 1938 put his people's interests above corporate interests.The notion of returning any control of Pemex to the hands of the likes of Exxon or BP or Shell is indeed threatening in light of the past.
I think Mexicans are aware of this because they have much more of a sense of their past(s) than most of their neighbors in the United States. But the role of petroleum in their history will (should) be of interest to people in the US as well.
Before it was Mexico, Mexico was part of New Spain in that part of the Spanish empire which had its origins when Hernán Cortés, his conquistadors and some local groups hostile to the Aztecs, finally, after some rough challenges, defeated Moctezuma in Tenochtitlan (later Mexico City) in about 1521.
In 1783 the Spanish crown claimed all "riches extracted from underground" pertained to the Crown, including oil, though oil wasn't much on the radar until the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.Spain reserved to itself the right to own or assign ownership of Mexican precious metals, oil, and even land. The crown's exploitation of silver kept the empire going. (This wasn't the case in the Thirteen Colonies where people, not the British Crown, laid claim to their mining finds.) As a result, only the Crown had the right to exploit oil or give permission for others to do it.
The Mexican war of Independence lasted from 1810 to roughly 1824. In 1892 the the independent Mexican government passed a law allowing owners of property to freely exploit "combustible minerals" as long as they had paid their federal taxes. This was during the Porfiriato. Porfirio Díaz, the dictator who so dominated Mexico from 1884 to 1919 that the period is named after him, was a leader whom all capitalists in the 1% loved and would still. He practically gave away Mexico's primary resources and land to Yankees and other foreigners and to some rich Mexicans, including leaders of the Catholic Church. These foreigners plunged in (and plundered), developing infrastructure and exploiting natural resources, but to very little benefit for ordinary Mexicans. So much could be said about this era, but here I will only give you this link to a pretty graphic short summary and this link in Spanish which is an excellent longer summary.
Diaz was the one who first exploited oil, admitting foreign companies to develop the resource. In 1911, Mexican Eagle Petroleum, a British company began to export it. English and American companies came to dominate oil production.
In 1910, the Mexican Revolution erupted and led to Diaz's overthrow. It wasn't an easy or a short revolution, persisting in various forms until the early 1920s. But as factions and presidents rose and fell, the oil industry was relatively unaffected. This is in part because Mexico was afraid of US power. As you can imagine, US businesses had a lot invested in Mexico. The US followed its still-current policy of supporting those who supported US interests and opposing those who didn't. Thus, feeling threatened, the US administration invaded Mexico, first in Veracruz in 1914 and then again from the north 1916-1917, experiences which made Mexicans leery of provoking their more powerful neighbor and its business interests. This is an oversimplification, but I'll let it stand.
Mexico's new Constitution came into effect in 1917. That Constitution, with amendments, is still current today. It contains Article 27 which, along with Article 28, are the articles you hear about when people argue about whether or not Pemex should be opened to private investment. These articles essentially guarantee that the resources of the nation will be managed and used in the public interest. In answer to the passage of Article 27, a number of oil companies formed The Association of Petroleum Producers in Mexico.
Large foreign concerns continued to control Mexican oil throughout the 1920s and 1930s. It wasn't such a profitable business in those years, with early finds showing signs of petering out. Among the companies involved were El Aguilar (Mexican Eagle), Penn-Mex, Mexican Petroleum and South Penn. Royal Dutch Shell gained a controlling interest in El Aguilar in 1919; Amoco (Standard Oil of Indiana) bought Mexican Petroleum in 1932 and sold it as part of a package to Standard Oil of New Jersey (now Exxon) in 1935, and Sinclair gained control of a smaller company, South Penn in 1932.
The 20s and 30s were a time of sliding oil prices not just in Mexico, but internationally as well. The one exception, in Mexico at least, was the discovery of an abundance of oil along the coast of Veracruz in Poza Rica by El Aguilar.
[Poza Rica is below Tuxpan on this map of the State of Veracruz.]
Labor disputes were the immediate cause of expropriation. They occured frequently from 1915 onward until 1938. In 1935 el Sindicato de Trabajadores Petroleros de la República Mexicana, the oil workers union, was formed. The companies were reluctant, for the most part, to even compromise with the unions for a number of reasons, including not wishing to set an example for their holdings in other countries, especially Venezuela where an abundance of oil had recently been discovered. The companies also disputed the figures Mexican government gave for oil company finances saying they couldn't afford to meet labor's demands. They shut down production in places rather than negotiate. you might be interested to know that in 1934 wages in the oil industry in Mexico were about 16 cents an hour (US). I couldn't find (didn't have time to keep searching)wages for oil workers in the US, but mining, manufacturing and construction workers were earning roughly between 49 cents a an hour and 58 cents an hour. In the 1930s the US was in the midst of The Great Depression. I'm not sure how this would affect hourly wages, but it certainly affected employment in general. The disparity between Mexican wages and US wages continues. US and multinational corporations often charge the same or similar prices in Mexico for their products and pay much lower wages than they do in the US. At any rate, apparently, their refusal to negotiate with labor in Mexico paid off for the companies in Venezuela and in other countries.
In 1937 and 1938 the workers and the companies parried with each other, or I should say, "fought." The Supreme Court of Mexico ultimately supported the workers. The companies refused to concede and closed plants. On March 8, 1938, President Cárdenas declared that the oil industries were expropriated so that petroleum riches which were exploited by foreign companies would be returned to the Mexican Nation.
Mexico ultimately paid more than a fair price for the expropriated assets. The nation did not immediately find itself flush with money because of them. But the act was very popular among Mexicans because it threw out of the country what were seen as elements of empire which had for so long controlled their destiny.
Although today the United States is the empire, the workers within the United States are in a relationship with companies that is not dissimilar to that of Mexican workers vs. oil companies. If Ronald Reagan had sided with the air traffic controllers in their strike, or if Obama had decided banks were not "too big to fail" or had sided with homeowners or had interfered with corporate layoffs when companies were making big profits or against Monsanto, whatever, he could have been compared to Lázaro Cárdenas.
Initially Mexico had trouble with oil production and struggled to learn what it needed to know to run Pemex. It managed to find the intellectual resources within the country. The US led a boycott of all Mexican products as a result of the expropriation. The truth is that Mexican exports then went to Germany and Japan. But more important is that in place of exports, Pemex developed its domestic market. The boycott ended in 1942 when the US found that Mexican oil would be useful in the war effort. And I have to add here that Franklin Roosevelt was not unsympathetic to Mexico, though others in the US were.
Pemex has overall been more successful than not. In spite of critics' clamoring (especially those in favor of foreign intervention), it is not in danger of failing. It is no more corrupt than giant US corporations, possibly less so than some. I think the overall consensus is that, as my old professor would say, it is definitely in need of new voices and new ideas: a housecleaning and remodelling. To discuss this aspect in depth is too much for me right now, but I would like to see Mexico consider very carefully whether or not and how to permit enhanced foreign participation in its oil industry. In 1938 Cárdenas put the interests of Mexican citizens in front of those of corporations. I know peso (and dollar) signs are glittering in front of the eyes of some current Mexican politicians (as well as some multinational oilmen). But Mexico, in the long run as well as the short, would do better distancing herself from the international corporate circus.
A very good resource for the history of the petroleum industry in Mexico from 1915 to 1938 and a bit beyond is
The Empire Struck Back: Sanctions and
Compensation in the Mexican Oil
Expropriation of 1938
Indeed, how safe IS Mexico? Click on this link. I really would like to know what ideas you up there in the north have about Mexico. How big do you think it is? What do you know about its government, its culture, where do you get most of your information about Mexico? What do you know about Mexican schools and universities? Why do we go to Mexican doctors? What, are we crazy? Are they all witch doctors? Etc,etc.
Why does it matter? Because US policy towards Mexico is really ignorant and because I wish my kids would visit.