Kerry and Interventionism in the Energy Sector

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and several of his cabinet secretaries met this past Thursday with U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry; U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar; and a group of U.S. businessmen from the energy, manufacturing and automotive sectors to address the reform initiative on energy policy drafted by the Mexican president and referred to the legislature for consideration.

The parties gave conflicting accounts following the high-level meeting. The Mexican president maintained that the U.S. officials were “satisfied” and “very happy” and did not express concerns about the initiative during the five-hour meeting in the Palacio Nacional. The U.S. ambassador, however, issued a statement on April 1 saying that the U.S. representatives “reiterated significant concerns the United States has raised about the changes to Mexico’s energy policy.” The ambassador’s statement went on to suggest that the proposed constitutional amendment implies possible violations of the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, “placing billions of dollars of potential investment in Mexico at risk, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.”

In addition, on leaving the meeting, former Secretary of State Kerry told the press that his country would maintain a team in Mexico to “try to make sure that whatever comes out of the reform effort will reflect the best ability to try to move forward.” President López Obrador emphatically denied this account, saying that his government would have agreed to this sort of foreign surveillance of the actions of Mexican authorities coming from the United States or any other country.

To avoid misunderstandings down the line, it seems appropriate to find out just what went on in the meeting. However, independent of what might have been said on Friday, it is nonsense for a bunch of foreign bureaucrats to expect to “audit” the Mexican legislative process, regardless of the broad corporate interests in play. The fact that former Sen. Kerry proposed such a measure shows that he – or worse, the government that he represents – remains stuck in an asymmetric vision, disrespectful and even neocolonial, of the bilateral relationship.

It is necessary to reiterate that only the Congress of the Union* is empowered to decide whether to approve, reject or amend the presidential initiative, and only the Mexican State can control the exploitation of the country’s resources, including those utilized in the generation of electricity. Finally, it is worth noting the irony of the fact that the White House is using the pretext of clean energy to pressure Mexico to maintain inappropriate concessions to big corporations, at the same time that President Joe Biden has announced the largest release of petroleum reserves in history to contain escalating fuel prices. In short, we must urge the Democratic administration to respect Mexican sovereignty without reservation, and address the pressing problems in its own society.

*Translator’s note: The Congress of the Union, formally known as the General Congress of the United Mexican States, is the legislature of the federal government of Mexico.

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