On March 18, 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas appropriated all petroleum reserves, facilities, and companies in Mexico for Mexico claiming that all mineral and oil deposits belonged to the government. In June of the same year, Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) was formed which until very recently maintained exclusive rights over exploration, extraction, refining, and commercialization of every drop of oil in Mexico.
Now the history books like to say that this is because the foreign oil companies were mistreating their workers but really, it was a shrewd move to keep the wealth found in Mexico in the country. It looked like the whole shebang was going to falter for awhile, but fortunately, World War II created a huge demand and Mexico shot to oil stardom. Now Mexico is the fourth largest oil producer in the Western Hemisphere and the eleventh largest producer of oil in the entire world.
So here we have this national holiday in honor of this momentous event except there have been some changes under President Peña Nieto. In 2013, he changed the constitution to allow direct foreign investment in the oil sector which was approved by Congress in 2014. While things seem to be slow starting, experts predict that this was another shrewd move by the Mexican government.
Mexico is the eleventh largest producer of oil in the world and the thirteenth largest in exportation of oil. It has the seventeenth largest oil reserves and is the fourth largest producer in the Western Hemisphere. In 1938, Petroleos Mexicanos was founded, otherwise known as Pemex, when the Mexican government nationalized all oil resources and facilities. This expropriation didn’t make the US happy and it put financial pressure on Mexico through boycotts.
The US put the pressure on again when Pena Nieto was elected. Bowing to demands, the president changed the 27 and 28 amendments of the Mexico constitution thereby allowing private and foreign investors to conduct exploration and extraction operations within Mexico once again. As of April 2016, private companies were allowed to open gas stations in Mexico, invading the previous monopoly held by Pemex, with the condition that the fuel would be directly purchased from Pemex. Full liberalization is scheduled for 2018 making it clear that Pena Nieto’s intentions are to privatize Mexico’s oil reserves completely.
Although some are touting this as a landmark advancement for Mexico, it just may be what leads to a full-scale oil shortage. In fact, it’s not unheard of for the Mexican government to manufacture oil and gas shortages in order to control a volatile area.
Some suggest that we will quickly become cannibals because we would be unable to obtain food. See, natural gas is used to make nitrogen fertilizers which are used in large-scale farming operations. Tractors and harvesters need oil based products to plant and collect the food. As all those chemically grown crops are not consumed where they are grown, oil is necessary to transport the food to the supermarket. And of course, you need an oil dependant vehicle to get from your house to the supermarket. So cannibalism would be the natural result because EVERYONE has forgotten how to grow their own organic food! We, in La Yacata, have not forgotten. (See Obligatory Organic, Sharecropping, Las tres hermanas, Container Gardening)
An oil shortage would also impact electricity, heating and cooling systems, gas powered vehicles and oil-based products, such as paint, plastic, medicine, toys and more, would become scarce. The interruption in these services and scarcity of these products would cause the total breakdown of society, or so some foretell.
La Yacata has no electricity, so no problem there. (See La Yacata still has no electricity, Chim-chimney, All sizzle and no spark). We currently use a gas stove, but we could switch to leña (wood) or cow patties for cooking without much fuss. We use our fireplace to heat our home on the rare occasions that it is needed. Walking, horseback riding or bicycling could easily replace our motos (motorcycles). In our case, I can’t see that we would be so dreadfully affected that we would succumb to despair and riot in La Yacata.
On the flip side, some predict that running out of oil would be a good thing in the long run. We would have cleaner air, less contamination from plastics, no more fracking pollution, and a large-scale move to renewable energy sources and organic, local farming.
So Tuesday we decided to go to the tianguis in Valle, just because. We gassed up the truck and headed out. We arrived, parked the truck, and started walking toward the tianguis. (flea market). An elderly lady grabbed my arm and said “No vayas alla. Van a explotar un tanque” (Don’t go there. They are going to blow up a tank.) Looking down the road, there was a lone police vehicle with lights flashing. It seems that there had been a report that protestors were going to blow up the Pemex across the street from the tianguis. Just to be safe, we headed home early. Of course, the only way out of the town was to drive past said Pemex and traffic was backed up to the wazoo, so it took 15 minutes to drive a mile.
We did get home safely. The report of that particular gas station being targeted was false. But is served as an extreme wake-up call for me.
On January 1, the crisis is over. Now begins the misery.
Of course, the government isn’t taking this lying down. Oh no! In response, Facebook posts and Tweets bombarded the social media networks with photos of looting being done by protestors and subsequent arrests of 4 looters in attempts to discredit the validity of the protestors. (See Mexican media botnet study)
There was also repeated video exposure of a man in a yellow El Camino who rammed riot police, injuring several officers. Of course, what is left out of the story is that just hours previously, the same group of riot police rammed protestors and ran over and killed the driver’s elderly mother.
As that didn’t seem to go too far with calming the national outrage, there was yet another group arrested for looting. This time 46 alleged looters were arrested in Mexico State after breaking into Chedraui and stealing flat screen TVs. In the governor’s press conference, he assured the Mexican people that they had every right to peacefully protest the gas hike, but that well, this sort of chaos could not be allowed to continue. Sounds like martial law in the wings to me.
There have also been reports of the people taking over gas stations, sending the workers home, and dispensing the gas to those who wish it, free of charge. As that is just bad business, Pemex is planning on closing those gas stations in high-risk areas. (See Insecurity could close 400 gas stations today)
It’s not this worker’s fault. When the gas station closed, he was left without pay, not even a tip to take home. Think about the workers when closing the gas stations. At least give them a food allotment to tie them over.
US/Mexico border at Tijuana on January 15, 2017. The Mexican government requested the US deny access into Mexico due to protests.
Mexico has gone so far as to ask the US to close the border entries at several locations during protests, not because there is any violence, but because the protestors have closed the casetas (toll booths) and without that income, what’s the point in having the entry opened? (Protests prompt closure at U.S.-Mexico border for 3rd weekend)