Oil reform caps year of dramatic changes

Published: Sunday | December 15, 2013 Comments 0

MEXICO CITY (AP):

Last week's opening of Mexico's oil industry to private and foreign investment caps a remarkable series of legislative victories by a president trying to re-engineer the country's most dysfunctional institutions.

Enrique Pena Nieto struck an unprecedented political deal with the two main opposition parties in his first days in office.

He then pushed through reforms meant to bring higher standards, greater openness and competition to the oligarch-dominated telecommunications industry, the education and tax systems, the banking system, and, now, the state-run petroleum business.

Even with that track record, the hardest work lies ahead.

Mexico has reams of progressive laws on the books, virtually all of which have been thwarted by corruption and inefficiency involving officials at every level.

Many police officers work for drug traffickers. Federal regulators turn a blind eye to blatantly monopolistic practices among the nation's largest companies. As a result, Mexicans have been left deeply sceptical about the potential for change.

The second year of Pena Nieto's six-year term will show whether the 47-year-old president and his rejuvenated Institutional Revolutionary Party have the ability to protect his reforms from the swarms of special-interest exemptions typically inserted into Mexican legislation by members of Congress allied with special interests.

The president and his team must then prove they can impose their will on federal, state and municipal officials, from education bureaucrats to local courts, charged with enacting his laws on the ground.

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