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Paraguay and Mexico - Apr 21

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Leftist ex-bishop ends Colorado Party rule in Paraguay

AFP
Leftist former bishop Fernando Lugo won Paraguay's presidential vote Sunday, beating rival Blanca Ovelar by 39-33 percent and ending her Colorado Party's 61-year rule in government, according to official preliminary results.

Lino Oviedo, 64, a retired army chief who helped stage a coup that ended the 35-year miltiary dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner, trailed in third place with 21 percent, according to the Electoral Tribunal's Quick Preliminary Result Broadcast hotline (TREP).

Lugo, addressing jubilant supporters at his campaign headquarters, said the election showed that "the little people can also win."
(19 April 2008)


Paraguay Chooses Between Firsts

Gideon Long, TIME
... The front-runner is a former Catholic bishop, Fernando Lugo, a liberal whose base is the poor rural heartland, where he is popular for his work with landless peasants. If elected, Lugo would be the first former Catholic bishop ever to become President of a nation. He has also pledged to tear up electricity price contracts with neighbors like Brazil, deals that he charges cheat Paraguay out of hundreds of millions of dollars in sales of its vast surplus power. "Our victory will mark a historic break with the past," says Lugo's campaign manager, Miguel Lopez. "A spontaneous, popular movement taking power in Paraguay. It's incredible!" In a recent speech, Lugo, 57, who leads most voter polls with as much as 39% approval, promised that "Paraguay will not continue to be an island separated from the rest of this great continent."

... Lugo sees the electricity deals as one solution. Rising demand has created an energy crisis in South America, especially in growing economies like Brazil; and Paraguay's hydro-electric dams on the Parana River provide one of the nation's most valuable commodities (and almost two-thirds of its GDP). The market value of the electricity Paraguay sells to Brazil and Argentina each year is estimated to be more than $3 billion; but Paraguay receives less than $1 billion for it. Lugo wants to renegotiate that arrangement, and many if not most Paraguayans back him. "We've been robbed by our neighbors for far too long," says Luisa Guillen, a market stall owner in the capital, Asuncion. "It's time Paraguay stood up for itself, and I think Lugo's the only candidate who realizes that."
(19 April 2008)


Mexico's Calderon pushes plan to reform Pemex
President, oil giant want to ink deals with outsiders but face fierce protests

Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Heated debate among Mexico's lawmakers about whether to open the door to foreign oil companies has stalled legislation aimed at reviving the flagging fortunes of state-run Petroleos de Mexico, the world's third-largest oil producer.

The outcome is being watched closely across the border, especially by U.S. refiners anxiously looking for signs that Mexico can still be counted on as one of their main sources of crude.

But a recent energy-reform proposal by President Felipe Calderon, who once served as Mexico's energy secretary, has been under heavy criticism at home. It challenges more than 70 years of national policy designed to prevent Mexico's rich oil fields from falling into the hands of outsiders.

... Pemex, which dominates Mexican oil production, is suffering from declining output and aging infrastructure. Last year, its crude oil output fell 5.3% to 3.08 million barrels a day. Production is down 9.4% since a peak in 2004, mainly because of a decline in recoverable oil at its giant Cantarell field in the Gulf of Campeche.

... Revitalizing Pemex is a source of interest for both the country and its trading partners. Mexico is the second-largest exporter of oil to the U.S., behind Canada
(18 April 2008)


Oil Bill Protest Shuts Mexican Congress

James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times
... For eight days, leftist lawmakers have paralyzed both houses of Congress with a sit-in to stop a proposal by President Felipe Calderón that would revamp the oil monopoly and allow it greater freedom to hire private companies to build and operate refineries, find undersea oil fields and transport oil.

The protests have been orchestrated by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist leader who narrowly lost to Mr. Calderón in 2006.

He and his followers argue that Mr. Calderón’s bill is a thinly disguised attempt to circumvent the Constitution and let foreign companies profit from Mexican oil. They have accused the government of trying to ram the bill through Congress and have demanded four months to explore the issue and, perhaps, hold a national referendum.

Shutting down Congress through civil disobedience, they maintain, is a desperate measure to stop the bill, though they acknowledge they are paying a heavy political price because it is an illegal act.
(19 April 2008)


In Mexico, a tempest in an oil barrel

Marion Lloyd, Chronicle
Calderon's plan may not draw majors anyway, many experts say
Leftist politicians have shut down Congress, staged hunger strikes and rallied tens of thousands in the streets to fight what they call the "privatization" of the state-owned oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos.

All that in just nearly two weeks since Mexican President Felipe Calderon unveiled his oil reform proposal.

But the protesters might be wasting their time.

Under the tepid provisions of the bill, few private companies are likely to scramble for a piece of the Pemex pie, industry executives and analysts say.
(19 April 2008)


Mexico's Unfinished Reform

Editorial, Washington Post
President Calderón tackles the state oil monopoly -- and the anti-democratic forces that support it.

THOUGH YOU wouldn't know it from listening to the Democratic presidential candidates, Mexico's biggest economic problem is not the North American Free Trade Agreement but its failure to open its economy even more widely to investment and trade. The single largest obstacle to Mexican growth is the country's state oil monopoly, Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex. Created in 1938, the company has become synonymous with inefficiency and corruption; though it supplies 40 percent of Mexico's government revenue, its production has declined 10 percent in the last three years, largely because it lacks the capital or expertise to tap offshore oil reserves.

Now Mexico's courageous president, Felipe Calderón, has proposed a modest reform aimed at easing this bottleneck.
(20 April 2008)
Surprising how right-wing the Washington Post has become, almost a junior version of the WSJ editorial pages.

About Pemex, there seem to be two different issues. 1) bringing to bear advanced technology to deal with the decline in Mexican oilfields 2) Mexican control of a resource that has been a perennial source of US-Mexican tension. The Post is rather tone deaf to the second issue. -BA


Cynthia McKinney on her trip to a Mexico workers summit

Cynthia McKinney, IndyBay (San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.)
... Cynthia McKinney describes her recent trip to a workers summit held in Mexico. ... former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is a Green Party candidate running for president...

... First of all, it is important to note and ask the question why is it that the corporate press are not even touching the events playing out right now in the capital city of our neighbor to the south and their importance to us? Had I not actually been there myself, I would be hard pressed to convince any audience that events of this magnitude were actually taking place anywhere in the world, let alone in a country as important and close to us as Mexico.

... as we speak, the Mexican Senate Chamber has been occupied. The massive rally held today has probably just ended, and some of the opposition Members of the Mexican Congress are inside the building on the dais and have announced a hunger strike. Days ago, one of the leading papers in Mexico City had a photo of the Chamber of Deputies of the Mexican Congress with an unfurled banner covering the Speaker's Rostrum, proclaiming the Chamber "Closed." The banner was hung by elected Members of the Mexican Congress who constitute the Frente Amplio Progresista that has dared to draw a line in the sand against U.S.-inspired legislation just introduced to allow foreign corporate ownership of PEMEX, Mexico's state-owned oil company.

Mexican women are energized around the idea of nation. The idea of patria. I wrote my Master's Thesis on the "Idea of Nation." And to see the women, in their t-shirts and kerchiefs, so committed to their country, their nation, their identity. To them, that's Mexico's oil, natural gas, electricity, land, and water and it ought to be used by the Mexican people first and foremost for their own national development. But sadly, it's the public policy emanating from Washington, D.C. that threatens that.
(19 April 2008)

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