Friday, December 01, 2006

Meltdown in Mexican Congress ends with inauguration

AP: "Mexican legislators brawl before inauguration"
Univision: "Calderon asume presidencia de Mexico"

Politicians in general—and legislators in particular—are often cast as corrupt, out-of-touch, self-interested, and boring. However, it is not entirely unusual for the legislative arena to become rather heated...and anything but boring.

Fistfights have erupted in a number of national legislative bodies around the world throughout history. Included among these are two instances in the United States (in 1856 and 1902, both involving members of the South Carolina delegation) and more recent occurrences in the Ukraine (in 2005 over WTO reforms), Zimbabwe (in 2004 during debate), and Taiwan (in 2003 over national defense funding).

The most recent parliamentary brawl to take place occurred in Mexico City. The catalyst: the much-contested impending inauguration of President-elect Felipe Calderon. The 3-day parliamentary breakdown was only the latest culmination of controversy surrounding Calderon since his narrow victory over leftist candidate Lopez Obrador.

Legislators opposed to Calderon began the standoff n Congress—an attempt to prevent the inauguration—which deteriorated into a series of scuffles between opposing party members. Calderon was eventually inaugurated in a short and stealthy proceeding before the Congress, as required by the Mexican Constitution.

Those opposed to Calderon fear that he will seek to privatize Mexico’s nationalized oil industry. The subject is a sensitive one because the nationalization of the nation’s oil resources in 1938 is a point of national pride in Mexico. The formation of PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos) is celebrated by Mexicans as a victory in ensuring that Mexico would control – and enjoy the benefits of – her natural resources. An amendment to that effect was also added to the Mexican Constitution in 1960.

If a major goal of the opposition to Calderon is to ensure that Mexico’s oil industry is not privatized, do you believe the parliamentary standoff was effective in demonstrating that Calderon lacks the imprimatur of the political machine—as well as the Mexican people—in any privatization scheme involving PEMEX?

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