Mexico’s ambitious president has unleashed a staggering series of reforms in his first year, tackling education, labor relations, and drug crime. But the trickiest gambit of all may be one that strikes at the heart of the nation’s pride and its economy: the bid to transform Mexico’s energy sector.
President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December, has confronted in oil and natural gas an issue central to Mexico’s sense of sovereignty. The day in 1938 when President Lázaro Cárdenas kicked out the U.S. and British oil companies and nationalized Mexico’s reserves is celebrated each year as a national holiday. Instead of paying fealty to the corporate interests of its powerful northern neighbor, Mexico eventually became one of the United States’ most important oil suppliers, valued as a bulwark against the vicissitudes of OPEC.