Sweeping Mexico energy reform may stumble in Congress
By David Alire Garcia and Adriana Barrera
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's incoming government will send a wide-reaching energy reform bill to Congress in the first half of 2013, but it is braced for the prospect of accepting a watered-down version that would likely deter investment by oil majors.
President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto wants to shake up the sector by opening up state oil monopoly Pemex to more private investment, hoping it will help boost production.
But as a feisty debate in Congress over a labor reform bill has shown, Pena Nieto may struggle in a divided Congress to secure a constitutional reform needed to forge ahead with the deep changes he wants to make.
Changing the constitution, which is necessary to allow foreign companies to take a stake in the country's ample hydrocarbon reserves and for Pemex to enter into joint ventures, requires a two-thirds majority vote in Congress.
Sen. David Penchyna, leader of the energy committee in the Mexican Senate and a member of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has hedged his bets.
"Right now, over there in that drawer I can take out, without exaggerating, six different proposed models, some with constitutional reforms, some without," Penchyna, a senator from Mexico's eastern Hidalgo state and former national PRI spokesman, said in an interview this week.
"Does a constitutional framework give greater certainty? Yes," he added. "But ... the sector is so attractive and profitable even without constitutional changes."
Mexico, the world's No. 7 oil producer, nationalized its energy industry in 1938 and it remains a powerful symbol of national self-sufficiency. Continued...