MP Antonio Garcia took off his clothes in Congress to denounce "the stripping of Mexico's oil wealth"
MP Antonio Garcia took off his clothes in Congress to denounce “the stripping of Mexico’s oil wealth”

The Mexican Congress has approved controversial legislation that opens the state-controlled oil sector to foreign investment.

The new energy law allows private oil and gas companies to drill for oil and gas with the state-run firm Pemex in exchange for a share of the profits.

It has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies a day after being passed by the upper house, the Senate.

Opposition lawmakers protested vigorously against the bill.

They said the new legislation would damage the national interests of Mexico.

The were scuffles during the long debate in the lower house of the Mexican Congress.

Landy Berzunza of the governing PRI party was taken to hospital with a scratched retina after an altercation with opposition MP Karen Quiroga.

Another opposition MP, Antonio Garcia Conejo, stripped down to his underwear to show his rejection of the bill.

President Enrique Pena Nieto says private investment is needed to modernise the energy sector and boost falling oil production.

Historic bill

Private firms will be allowed for the first time since 1938, when the sector was nationalised, to explore and extract oil and gas with state-run firm Pemex – and take a share of the profits.

The Chamber of Deputies voted 354 to 134 to give general approval to the bill.

Throughout the debate, members of the opposition Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) tried to disrupt the proceedings to prevent the passage of the bill.

Some occupied the podium in the main chamber.

Others barricaded the chamber’s entrances to prevent MPs from the PRI, PAN and Nueva Alianza parties, who backed the reform, from entering.

The debate was eventually moved to an alternative venue, where it got even more heated.

‘Ruffians’

Left-wing lawmaker Ricardo Monreal took to the podium with a thermos can, saying it was a time capsule in which he would put the names of the “traitors of the fatherland” who had voted for the reform bill.

Mr Garcia Conejo of the PRD, while taking his jacket, tie and shirt off, said the governing party was robbing Mexico of its assets.

“This is how you’re stripping the nation. Where is the benefit? I’m not ashamed, what you’re doing is a shame!” he said as he dropped his trousers and removed his socks.

Shouts of “ruffians” and “traitors” could be heard throughout the debate, while some MPs made obscene gestures at others who had interrupted them.

Members of the governing PRI party said the bill was crucial to drive Mexico’s economy forward and to better exploit Mexico’s oil riches.

Oil production in Mexico has dropped from 3.4 million barrels per day in 2004 to the current rate of 2.5 million barrels per day.

The bill is a key part of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s drive to reform the Mexican economy.

The bill still needs to be approved by 17 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities – the District Federal and 31 states.

Source BBC

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