Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mexico's congress slams through political reforms, as it prepares to take up energy ones

Legislative term limits, and a new presidential swearing in date

Guadalajara -
Mexico's congress had a busy week as it pushed through several political reforms, including term limits for its members, in just five days. Tomorrow it will begin final debate on proposed amendments to the federal constitution which would allow private capital investment in PEMEX, the state controlled oil monopoly. A vote is likely to occur late Sunday night or early Monday morning, with passage almost assured according to many observers. Forbes praises Peña Nieto's "courageous" energy policy.

On Tuesday the Senate approved by a vote of 106-15 changes to more than two dozen articles of the country's constitution, including one that opens the door to the possibility of coalition governments at both the state and federal level. Mexico has three major political parties and numerous smaller ones, ranging from the center right to the far left.

Under the proposed coalition measure, a president would have the power to form a government whose primary officers could belong to two or more political parties. Most coalition cabinet appointees would be subject to Senate confirmation under the new system, which currently they are not.

A proposal to limit congressional terms beginning in 2018 also passed. Senators will be eligible to serve two consecutive terms of six years each and deputies four terms of three years each, thereby assuring that no legislator will hold office for more than a dozen years. The presidency will remain fixed at one 72 month term.

Mexico's president is elected on July 1. But under current law he does not take office for five months, until Dec. 1. Some have complained such a delay is burdensome to the country and is unnecessary. Beginning in 2024, the president will be sworn in on Oct. 1.

On Wednesday the reform package moved to the lower house, the Cámara de Diputados. In a rare procedural move vigorously objected to by some leftist deputies, the chamber voted overwhelmingly (306-78) to fast track the proposals and bypass routine committee review of the proposed legislation. Mexico's congress, like that of the U.S., normally conducts all of its business through committees, which in due course issue reports and recommendations to the Cámara as a whole. Such procedures frequently can take weeks or months.

After hours of floor debate on Thursday federal deputies made some changes to the senate package, and then passed the reforms on a roll call of 409-69. Far left wing parties tried to block a vote with a series of procedural objections, but in the end even a majority of Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) deputies gave up the ghost and joined PRI, PAN, Green Party and New Alliance representatives in supporting the package.

Because of the lower house modifications, the package now returns to the Senate for a final vote.

PRI leaders in the Senate have assured that the energy reform debate will open on Sunday, despite PRD's request that the controversial matter be carried over to the 2014 legislative agenda. Proponents of the PEMEX private investment initiatives must believe they are already holding sufficient votes.

The ultra-left MORENA party has threatened to "encircle" the Senate the moment the PEMEX debate begins, and there is heavy security this weekend on Mexico's equivalent of Capitol Hill. Congressional grounds sealed, as energy reform vote approaches. On Thursday the radical teachers' union CNTE, assisted by MORENA demonstrators, managed to break though police barricades outside the Senate in an effort to prevent the discussion of preliminary energy reform matters. They returned this morning and are regrouping for the next round. MORENA has tried to distance itself from CNTE, even though it seems abundantly clear they are working together. MORENA bloquea el Senado durante ocho horas en repudio a la reforma energética.

MORENA's fiery leader, two time presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was sidelined from partisan combat earlier this week when he suffered a cardiac event and underwent an emergency stent surgery. The procedure was described as a complete success, and AMLO was discharged from a hospital today. His son has been speaking for him throughout the week, but the uncompromising opponent of virtually every political, social and economic reform advanced by the PRI administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto will likely return to the front lines very soon. Mexico's Left determined to shackle the nation to the past.

On the major congressional votes this week in both the Senate and the Cámara de Diputados, the center right National Action Party (PAN) and the center left Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which controls the presidency, were solidly allied. Just a year ago they were at each other's throats. Politics makes strange bedfellows.

Jan. 31, 2014 - President Peña Nieto signed the political reforms into law today during a ceremony in Mexico City.

Dec. 16 - San Luis Potosí puts PEMEX reforms over the top
Dec. 15 - Jalisco and all of Yucatán peninsula approve PEMEX reforms
Dec. 13 - Mexican states rush to endorse PEMEX reforms
Dec. 12 - Exit Stage Left: PRD says "The Pact for Mexico is dead"
Dec. 11 - Mexico's Chamber of Deputies wastes no time, approves PEMEX reforms
Dec. 11 - Mexico's PEMEX: senators open the door to foreign expertise and private capital
Dec. 8 - PEMEX amendments are on the legislative "fast track"
Dec. 2 - Enrique Peña Nieto at one year: a marathon, not a sprint

Mexico's congress, 2013
Sept. 2 - Mexico's House of Deputies passes education reforms
Sept. 3 - Mexico's Senate passes education reform bill, as labor unions threaten civil disobedience
Nov. 16 - Mexican deputies approve $344 billion USD 2014 budget

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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