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Mexican president slams ‘failure’ of energy reform, defends economic record

Mexican president slams 'failure' of energy reform, defends economic record

By Dave Graham MEXICO CITY : Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday renewed his attacks on his predecessor’s opening of the oil and gas industry to private investment, saying that no more contracts would be awarded unless companies produced results. Lopez Obrador, a leftist who took office in December, has been a persistent critic of a 2013-14 legislative overhaul by his predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, that opened Mexican oil and gas production and exploration to private capital. Speaking at his regular morning news conference, the president also pushed back against suggestions that the Mexican economy, which contracted by 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of this year, could be sliding towards a recession under his watch. Noting he was privy to information that painted a rosier economic picture, Lopez Obrador said higher wages were boosting private consumption and that inflation was under control. Under the oil reform legislation, more than 100 contracts were issued, but Lopez Obrador has argued that Pena Nieto’s reform failed, making the prospect of new tender rounds for contracts “inadmissible” unless output and investment increased. “I have never committed myself to the rounds continuing,” Lopez Obrador said. “How are we going to justify having more invitations to bid for oil blocks if what was done was a failure, or hasn’t delivered results?” he added. “We can’t continue to hand out contracts like was done in the mining industry.” The architects of Pena Nieto’s energy reform “deceived” the public by saying it would boost oil output, he added. Lopez Obrador‘s remarks came in the midst of the Congreso Mexicano del Petroleo, one of the most important annual gatherings for the oil industry in Mexico . Lopez Obrador had been responding to a question on whether his efforts to inspire business confidence last week by signing an investment pact with executives had been undermined by the oil regulator’s announcement that same day that planned auctions to find partners for state oil firm Pemex were being canceled. Pemex has struggled with hefty losses and is saddled with around $106 billion in debt. Lopez Obrador has pledged to revive the company’s fortunes, and many analysts argue that partnerships with other firms are imperative to provide it with more funds. Mexican crude output, meanwhile, has fallen by around half since peaking in 2004 at some 3.4 million barrels per day. Proponents of Pena Nieto’s energy reform say it will take years to bring new production on stream. Lopez Obrador has had an awkward relationship with corporate leaders, and he infuriated many by canceling a partly built $13 billion airport for Mexico City just weeks before taking office.