Month: August 2013

OINK

pig

 

You’ve got to hand it to the Mexican left: they excel at the lost art (lost in the States, at least) of portraying capitalists as rapacious, predatory, slobbering oligarchs. In the US, we’ve grown pretty accustomed, in the Silicon Valley era, to thinking of our most dynamic capitalists as snot-nosed young geniuses in hoodies. To the cartoonist brigade of the Mexican left, the moneyed class will forever be populated by portly gents in evening wear and top hats, flashing their robber-baron watch fobs and their searing contempt for the proletariat.

The cartoon above, from the August 21 issue of La Jornada, is referring to the negative reaction to the teachers’ union protests in Mexico City that have snarled traffic and caused the delay of soccer games and the president’s first state of the union address.

“Our kids don’t study with those savage teachers,” says the pig. “We send them to Harvard to study savage capitalism.”

Advertisements

JOVENES

kids

 

Kids at a festival for indigenous cultures, Guadalajara, Jalisco. [RF]

ENFOCADO

06-Munal

 

I’m looking forward to seeing the exhibit “México a través de la fotografía,” which just opened at the National Art Museum here in Mexico City, and runs through November.

Above: “El Axolote Gigante del Lago de Alchichica”, Puebla, 2001; by Daniel Mendoza Alafita. You can read my story on the plight of the axolote, the effort to save it, and its role in Mexican culture and the fragile ecology of the valley of Mexico, here.

[Photo: munal.mx, via aristeguinoticias.com]

MONUMENT

DSC_0396 DSC_0401 DSC_0410

 

Nighttime at Mexico City’s Monument to the Revolution. [RF]

NOWHERE, EVERYWHERE

Originally posted at www.latimes.com:

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Freed drug lord missing, but present in Guadalajara

Rafael Caro Quintero, wanted by the U.S., has been ordered rearrested in Mexico. Whether or not he is hiding out in Guadalajara, his business interests are prominent here.

By Richard Fausset
August 25, 2013, 7:00 a.m.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — There are some who suspect that Rafael Caro Quintero has hidden himself away here in this pleasant provincial capital where he was once known as “The Prince” — the drug lord with the gold-plated pistols who, back in the 1980s, doled out new Ford sedans as a way to win friends and influence people.

Others think he may have vanished into the rural badlands of Sinaloa, where he was born and raised.

Then there are those who wonder whether it is even safe to speculate on the whereabouts of a convicted murderer who was sprung from prison this month on a technicality, yet whose legend and business network remain formidable, despite nearly three decades behind bars.

“His location? I can’t imagine. Nor do I want to imagine,” said Jose Luis Guizar, his former defense attorney, with a mordant chuckle. “That may be a mortal sin.”

Today, Mexican authorities are presumably on the hunt for Caro Quintero, who walked out of Guadalajara’s Puente Grande penitentiary on Aug. 9 after an appeals tribunal controversially declared that he had been tried in the wrong court for the slaying of four people, including U.S. drug enforcement agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, in 1985. (The tribunal ruled that he should not have been tried in federal court because it did not consider Camarena a member of the diplomatic corps.)

Officials in Washington, livid that he did not serve his full 40-year sentence, have formally requested his extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on suspicion of a number of felonies, including murder. A Mexican judge has since ordered his rearrest.

Whether the Mexican government is capable of finding Caro Quintero remains to be seen. And yet his presence, manifested in his lingering legacy and fortune, is inescapable in Guadalajara, the leafy capital of the western state of Jalisco that he once called home.

In addition to being a founder of the Guadalajara drug cartel, Caro Quintero was said to be a partner, in the 1980s, in 300 businesses, including a luxury hotel, nightclubs, restaurants and a Ford dealership. Despite his rough-hewn rural background and first-grade education, he found allies in Guadalajara’s more traditional business class.

In some ways it was a good fit. Metropolitan Guadalajara, with its population of 4.4 million, is perhaps best known as the home of traditional Mexican culture, of mariachi and tequila. But it is also a city with thriving manufacturing and tech industries, and is proud of its modern, pro-business climate: A sign over the highway into town reads, “Welcome to Entrepreneurs Land.”

And Caro Quintero was nothing if not an entrepreneur.

His style was far from subtle. He had a fondness for adorning his weapons with diamonds. He famously wooed the niece of an ex-governor of Jalisco state by showering her with new cars and jewels. Police were allegedly bought with cash and Crown Victoria sedans. One witness in a criminal case memorably recalled seeing him at a party, smoking cocaine on the back of a prancing horse.

In a jailhouse interview years after his arrest, he claimed to have lost everything, including numerous ranches and 5,000 head of cattle.

But U.S. officials paint a different picture. For years, they have monitored what they describe as a complicated web of businesses that have helped launder his dirty money. And they say Caro Quintero has maintained an alliance with a branch of the Sinaloa cartel, currently Mexico’s most powerful criminal enterprise.

In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated 15 businesses and 18 people in and around Guadalajara — including Caro Quintero’s four children, wife and brother-in-law — as being active players in his commercial network. As a result, they were placed on the U.S. government’s “kingpin” list, which prohibits Americans from conducting business with them and freezes any U.S. assets they may have.

But such restrictions accomplish only so much. Last week in an American-style indoor shopping mall called the Plaza Patria, a cheerful kiosk, part of the local bath and body chain called El Baño de Maria, offered pampering foot-scrub kits and spearmint-tea soap bars to a clientele that was unaware or didn’t care that the chain had been designated a money-laundering operation for the capo. (A branch of the store had been operating in a terminal of the Guadalajara airport until just a few weeks ago, according to airport employees.)

It was the same at the blacklisted Barbaresco restaurant, a chic, airy place where patrons dined on gourmet pizzas and salmon salads under splashy modern-art canvases.

On a busy road south of town, there was no sign that anything was amiss at a luxury gated community called Provenza Residencial, only banners promising future homeowners “tranquillity,” “exclusivity” and “fun.”

According to the Treasury Department, Provenza is owned or controlled by Juan Jose Esparragoza Morena, identified as a longtime drug trafficking partner of Caro Quintero and a current Sinaloa cartel boss. The Treasury Department alleges that Caro Quintero is an investor in the venture.

Predictably, none of this came up in a tour of the property. Instead, a salesman talked up the pool and gym, the basketball and tennis courts, the clean air and the 30-minute commute into town. New homes start at about $250,000, and the company, the agent said, was happy to help with financing.

The other Caro Quintero-affiliated businesses on the Treasury Department list are similarly unremarkable, the kind that pump wealth into any big city economy: a chain of shoe stores, a luxury spa, a gas station company, real estate and construction firms, a swimming pool business.

The suspicion that ill-gotten gains may be behind everyday businesses is a common one in Mexico, and particularly prevalent in Guadalajara since the mid-1970s, when Caro Quintero and his associates, feeling pressure from government crackdowns in their home state of Sinaloa, moved to town and established the city as their headquarters.

The custom continues to this day, and it is not likely to fade anytime soon. Guadalajara has long been surrounded by some of the country’s most important marijuana and poppy-growing regions, and its strategic importance has increased with the rise of the methamphetamine trade. Precursor chemicals from Asia are shipped to the Pacific port of Manzanillo, and meth labs now dot the landscape between the port and Jaliscan capital.

A new generation of capos, following the precedent set by Caro Quintero, are assumed to be living behind the walls of the city’s suburban enclaves, sending their kids to the better schools, and plowing their drug proceeds into numerous non-drug enterprises.

Residents have inured themselves to the possibility that any business might be connected. After suspected drug trafficker (and purported Caro Quintero relative) Sandra Avila Beltran, known as the “Queen of the Pacific,” was arrested in 2007, authorities seized 200 of her businesses, including a chain of Jalisco tanning salons called Electric Beach. Though acquitted of drug-trafficking charges, she is currently facing money-laundering charges in a Mexican court.

“Those are the suspicions you live with,” said a woman visiting a strip mall next to the Provenza development, who, like many here, declined to give her name for fear of getting mixed up with the capos. “You never know who the owners are.”

Though he might prove difficult to find, Caro Quintero is unlikely to regain his crown as the prince of Guadalajara. The drug game, and the players, have changed, and it is unclear how Caro Quintero would fit in. Officials say he is 60; his attorneys claimed that he was much older, and suffering fromsenility. The new generation of capos is locked in a ruthless battle for control of the region. Homicides in Guadalajara more than tripled from 2006 to 2011, according to the latest available government figures.

But what Caro Quintero undoubtedly continues to command, at least in some quarters, is a perverse respect. After his arrest in 1985, many Mexicans, particularly poor ones, embraced him as a Robin Hood-like folk hero, a man who, by will and cunning, was able to break through the social and economic barriers that keep many Mexicans down.

Taxi driver Raul Valadez said he was born in 1979 and was too young to remember those days. “But a lot of older people around here remember him,” Valadez said. “They say that he helped a lot of people. He created jobs.”

The cabbie fired up his car stereo one recent afternoon; one of the old corridos came blasting out. A nasally singer hailed Caro Quintero as the lion, the king of the beasts, whose roars could be heard even from jail.

Valadez hummed along as he moved the little cab through streets that seemed calm enough, with no obvious signs of lions anywhere.

richard.fausset@latimes.com

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

 

NICKED

???????????????????????????

 

Originally posted at www.latimes.com:

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Mexican army captures leader of Gulf cartel

Gulf cartel leader Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, who is wanted in the United States on drug charges, is arrested near the border with Texas.

By Richard Fausset
August 17, 2013, 8:41 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — The leader of the Gulf cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest drug-running organizations, was captured by the Mexican army Saturday, officials said, dealing a new blow to a decades-old enterprise whose power has waned in recent years with the rise of other criminal groups.

Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, 51, who is wanted in the United States, was arrested Saturday morning, according to a government statement. Mexican news organizations reported that he was detained in Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, near the Texas border.

Ramirez, known as El Pelon, or the Bald One, was indicted in a U.S. federal court in 2008 on drug distribution charges. The U.S. State Department has offered a reward of up to $5 million for his arrest. He is presumably also wanted on similar charges in Mexico.

His arrest is the latest bad news for the Gulf cartel, whose roots as a smuggling outfit date to the 1930s, and which was once a formidable force in the Mexican drug business. Though the group is still involved in moving marijuana and cocaine to the U.S. through the border city of Matamoros, near the southernmost tip of Texas, its power has diminished in recent years with the rise of the ruthless Zetas cartel. The Zetas began as a paramilitary wing of the Gulf cartel, but eventually split off.

In recent years, the Gulf cartel joined forces with the powerful Sinaloa cartel to push back against the Zetas. The result was a gruesome turf war that engulfed numerous Mexican states.

The Gulf cartel’s leadership has also been targeted. In September, the Mexican military captured top Gulf cartel leaders Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sanchez and Mario Cardenas Guillen.

Cardenas’ brother, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, a longtime boss of the cartel, had been arrested in 2003 and extradited to the United States in 2007. He got a 25-year sentence in a 2010 plea agreement and is suspected to be cooperating with U.S. authorities, which could be a factor in the arrests of subsequent leaders.

Saturday’s arrest was no doubt welcome news for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December after promising to rethink Mexico’s security strategy and reduce the violence.

The naked brutality of the drug war — and the challenge for the new president — were on display Saturday, when government officials in the troubled southwestern states of Guerrero and Michoacan announced the discovery of 25 bodies, the apparent victims of at least three different massacres.

Ramirez’s arrest is the second apprehension of a major drug capo since Peña Nieto’s inauguration. The arrest of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Treviño Morales, known as Z-40, was the more significant, given the level of the Zetas’ bloodthirstiness, and their growing footprint both inside and beyond Mexico’s borders.

Both arrests will probably help assuage U.S. concern that the new Mexican government may prove less aggressive in its pursuit of drug lords than that of Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

The new government is said to be reassessing security and information-sharing relationships between the two countries. And Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party has a history of coziness with drug kingpins. Not helping matters was a Mexican appeals tribunal’s decision this month to free Rafael Caro Quintero, a drug lord imprisoned in the 1980s for masterminding the slaying of a U.S. narcotics agent. (The Peña Nieto government has said it will try to reverse the decision.)

The idea of targeting top drug capos, known as the kingpin strategy, was a major focus of Calderon’s U.S.-backed, military-led assault on the drug cartels. At the end of his six-year term, Calderon boasted that his team had taken out two-thirds of Mexico’s 37 most-wanted criminals.

More than 70,000 Mexicans died in the violence during the former president’s term. But there was little measurable effect on the amount of drugs flowing to the United States.

Upon taking office, Peña Nieto and his team criticized the kingpin strategy, claiming that it caused cartels to form smaller groups, which branched out into extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope of the Mexican Competitiveness Institute said Saturday that Ramirez’s arrest showed that the kingpin strategy is “alive and kicking” under Peña Nieto, and that “there are more signs of continuing with the Calderon policy than people initially believed.”

In the unrelated violence reported in southwest Mexico on Saturday, a group of eight bodies was found in the community of Los Cajones in the northern part of Guerrero state. According to a statement released by the state attorney general’s office, the bodies of five men in military-style clothing were discovered with gunshot wounds in the bed of a Ford pickup truck. Three more male bodies were also found, prosecutors said, presumably nearby. None of the men were identified. Authorities said they appeared to be between 20 and 35 years old.

Another group of eight bodies was found in the Guerrero municipality of Taxco de Alarcon, about a three-hour drive west of Los Cajones, according to the news service Milenio.

In Michoacan, nine people were found Saturday morning in the municipality of Tepalcatepec, according to news reports. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal reported that the bodies bore signs of torture.

richard.fausset@latimes.com

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Photo: Mario Armando Ramirez Treviño, 51, was arrested Saturday morning in Rio Bravo, near the Texas border, according to the Mexican government and news organizations. (DEA /August 17, 2013, detail, via LA Times)

JAIME LOPEZ

Cult rock and roll songwriter Jaime Lopez played a solo show at Mexico City’s tiny  Foro del Tejedor, in La Roma, last night. It was my first exposure to Lopez, who is best known for his song “Chilanga Banda,” a super-slangy, vaguely hip-hopish, carefully constructed word salad of Mexico City patois that was covered by the famous Cafe Tacuba a few years back. (A couple of attempts to translate the lyrics can be found here.) There are many ways for a non-local to get lost in the Mexican capital. It can happen when you’re listening to what should be the simplest of spoken sentences — a testament to five centuries of Mexicans’ gleeful chopping and screwing of the European tongue they got stuck with.  If you aren’t lost trying to follow “Chilanga Banda,” you must be a chilango.

Jaime Lopez is about 60 years old. He’s a grizzled character, with a face that looks like it’s survived a few bar fights and a voice like a cheap lawnmower engine. He wore black cowboy boots and a tight black T-shirt, and played a black guitar adorned with a sticker of a cowboy silhouette. I got the sense last night that he can do almost anything. After acknowledging that he was playing on the anniversary of the death of the famous Southern gringo he called “Santo Elvis,” he ran through a seemingly endless repertoire of rock and roll, trova-style folk songs, cumbias, rancheras, sensitive ballads and angry breakup songs, all the time accompanied only by his guitar.

For all I know, it may have indeed been endless. After four straight hours of playing, Lopez took a gulp of wine and asked the crowd if they wanted five hours more. They roared their assent. I couldn’t stick it out. Wish I could have.

Above, Lopez and the late Mexican actor Eulalio Gonzalez duet on a beautiful Lopez-penned number about the power of boredom and the limits of wanderlust.

 

WANTED

MEXICO-US-CRIME-DRUGS-CARO QUINTERO

 

Originally posted at www.latimes.com:

 

U.S. requests extradition of Mexican behind DEA agent’s death

By Richard Fausset and Tracy Wilkinson
August 14, 2013, 6:21 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — The United States government has formally requested the extradition of Rafael Caro Quintero, the Mexican drug lord who was convicted of slaying a U.S. anti-narcotics agent in 1985 but was freed last week by a Mexican court on a technicality, Mexican officials said Wednesday.

Caro Quintero, 60 — a notorious co-founder of one of Mexico’s first major, modern drug cartels — was released from a prison in Mexico’s Jalisco state early Friday morning after a surprise ruling by an appeals tribunal.

It is unclear where Caro Quintero went after walking out of the prison, or whether U.S. or Mexican forces have been keeping close tabs on him.

According to a statement Wednesday from the Mexican attorney general’s office, U.S. officials have presented Mexican prosecutors with a “provisional arrest order” for Caro Quintero, based on “various crimes” he is charged with in federal district court in California. The arrest order was approved by a Mexican federal judge; in theory, this should trigger a hunt for him by Mexican security forces.

Caro Quintero has a number of federal charges pending against him in California, court documents indicate, including conspiring to distribute cocaine and marijuana; violent crimes in aid of racketeering, and murder and kidnapping charges related to the 1985 abduction and slaying of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Caro Quintero had been sentenced to 40 years in prison for the slaying of Camarena, and he served 28 years before being freed by last week’s controversial court ruling, which many here suspect was the result of either incompetence or corruption.

The slaying of Camarena severely strained U.S.-Mexico relations in the mid-1980s. Mexican police were involved in the crime, and the U.S. suspected Mexican government officials of orchestrating a cover-up.

The freeing of Caro Quintero is threatening to strain tensions once again, but the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto appears to be taking pains to assuage its angry northern neighbor. On Tuesday, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Jose Antonio Meade said the government would attempt to reverse the ruling that liberated the drug lord, saying it was not “respectful” of the Mexican “legal framework.”

Mexican officials have said that a U.S. extradition order could not be based on charges relating to the Camarena slaying, but they left open the possibility that he could be extradited for other charges pending against him in the United States.

Officials with the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico declined to comment on the case.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Photo: A Mexican Federal Police vehicle patrols near Puente Grande state prison in Zapotlanejo, Jalisco state, Mexico, where former top cartel boss Rafael Caro Quintero was released after serving 28 years for the kidnapping and murder of a U.S. anti-drug agent. (Hector Guerrero / AFP/Getty Images, via LA Times)

THE SELL

petroleo

 

 

This is, in part, how Mexico’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party is going to try to sell the idea of opening the national oil company, PEMEX, to foreign investment. The opposition accuses them of trying to give the country’s oil supply away to foreigners, 75 years after then-president Lazaro Cardenas secured his place in national legend by booting out the foreign oil companies and nationalizing the industry.

The PRI pushed back this week with full-page ads in the national newspapers (above). The translation: “The oil is, and always will be, ours.”

THE PLAN

Pemex, Mexico's oil monopoly

Mexico’s leader unveils plan to open oil industry to foreign firms

President Enrique Peña Nieto is hoping his proposal to let private companies partner with Pemex, Mexico’s oil monopoly, will yield a long-term economic payoff.

By Richard Fausset and Tracy Wilkinson
August 12, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

MEXICO CITY — Risking a political firestorm, President Enrique Peña Nieto on Monday unveiled a historic proposal to let foreign companies take part in Mexico’s state-run oil industry, long a symbol of autonomy from the U.S. and other global powers.

The proposal, which the president hopes will yield a long-term economic payoff, would change the Mexican Constitution so that private companies could partner with the state monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and share in its profits. The plan instantly came under attack, both from leftists who fear it threatens the nation’s patrimony and from those on the right who believe it doesn’t go nearly far enough.

Pemex was created in 1938 to manage all Mexican oil and gas resources after then-President Lazaro Cardenas expropriated and nationalized foreign petroleum holdings in the country.

The move made a hero of Cardenas, but the company became notorious for corruption, inefficiency and bloat. In the last decade, it saw its production steadily diminish as the country began tapping out its once-vast stores of easy-to-find oil, much of which was beneath shallow waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

Many analysts say the country needs foreign investment and expertise to help it extract oil and gas from more technically challenging deepwater wells and shale rock formations. But the idea is passionately opposed by many who fear the country is on the road to privatizing its most important natural resource. In a recent national poll, 65% said they opposed foreign investment in Mexico’s petroleum industry.

In a pomp-filled presentation Monday before a handpicked audience at Los Pinos, the Mexican White House, Peña Nieto labored to assuage those fears. His reform, he said, would create jobs, lower electricity and gas bills, and even result in better food, because of the development of new fertilizers. And he insisted that Mexico would retain “absolute control” over its oil.

“This is the moment to utilize all of our energy to move and transform Mexico,” he said. “Petroleum and other hydrocarbons will continue to be the exclusive patrimony of the nation. We will continue being owners of the petroleum income.”

Peña Nieto’s allies say the stakes could not be higher for the Mexican economy. Pemex is responsible for about one-third of the government’s income. But if current trends are not reversed, a country famous for its abundant oil and gas reserves could become a net energy importer by 2020.

Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell said Mexico had to change to meet growing demands both abroad, in places like China, and domestically.

But the political stakes are daunting as well. Energy reform is perhaps the most important element of a broader package that Peña Nieto is hoping will transform his country, making it more modern and efficient.

With the support of his own Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and members of the conservative National Action Party, the proposal is expected to pass both houses of Congress. After that, 17 of Mexico’s 32 state and Federal District legislatures must approve the amendment.

Even if he is successful, Peña Nieto, who took office in December and is limited to one six-year term, could still suffer politically if the opposition mounts a sustained and impassioned protest. It is difficult to say whether Mexico’s left, which is suffering from internal divisions, can bring such heat. But there is a concern that, with emotions rising, things could get ugly.

“The debate over energy reform represents the largest challenge in the history of the young Mexican democracy,” columnist Juan E. Pardinas wrote in the newspaper Reforma on Sunday, referring to the period since 2000, when the PRI was defeated after decades of one-party rule. “The civility of the political actors and the power of our institutions will be under a difficult stress test.”

The opposition has been gearing up for what it hopes will be an ideological battle to be waged, at least partially, in the streets. Leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was able to essentially shut down the Mexican capital with protests for weeks after losing the presidential race in 2006, has called for a rally next month, about the time that Congress will be debating the legislation.

“What is it they are trying to do with the privatization of Pemex?” Lopez Obrador said in a video statement released Monday. “They are trying to make off with the wealth of the Mexican people.”

Jesus Zambrano, head of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, criticized Peña Nieto’s proposal to change two articles of the constitution. If the government really does not want to privatize Pemex, he said, there should be no need to fiddle with the document. Earlier this summer, Zambrano’s party held a rally under a giant statue of the late President Cardenas, arguing that opening the company to foreigners would betray his great achievement.

But Peña Nieto argued Monday that his proposal was in the spirit of Cardenas’ reformist impulse, noting that the former president had originally intended Pemex to be able to work with foreign companies. Such partnerships were only prohibited, Peña Nieto noted, by a constitutional amendment in the 1960s.

His presentation was in many ways attuned to notions of national pride. It opened with the president and his Cabinet delivering a full-throated version of the national anthem. Cabinet members, including smartly dressed military officers, were introduced by name, and stood while being applauded.

On the right, meanwhile, critics say the president’s proposal doesn’t go far enough.

“Very timid,” said Gustavo Madero, head of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, who argued that the measure fails to end the monopoly that Pemex enjoys, and fails to open the company to meaningful competition.

The PAN had proposed a plan that would go beyond the PRI’s idea of sharing profits with private companies. Its proposal would allow for the granting of concessions — that is, contracts in which the government, for a fee, grants a company the right to explore and produce oil in a given area over a fixed period. Private companies often prefer concessions over profit-sharing arrangements.

“We will see where this goes,” Madero said, “but our vision is to broaden all options.”

During the 12 years that the PAN held the presidency, it had hoped to pass sweeping energy reform, but was stymied at least in part by opposition from the PRI. Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon, was able to pass some changes in 2008.

Coldwell said the proposal would allow Pemex to enter into profit-sharing contracts with private companies, including foreign ones, but not the production-sharing contracts that many international firms prefer. The only other countries that follow a similar scheme, he said, are Ecuador, Bolivia and Iran.

Those are not exactly models of cutting-edge economic performance, and some analysts wondered whether the proposal, once it had gone through the legislative meat grinder, would be strong enough to effect real change.

David Shields, an energy analyst based in Mexico City, said the bill presented by Peña Nieto was sorely lacking in the kinds of details that investors need. Only when legislation has been written to implement the changes will it be clear whether Peña Nieto’s proposal is far-reaching, he said.

“What we got today is what we call in boxing a shadow round,” Shields said. “They weren’t really answering what investors want to know. How do you develop a shale gas industry? What are the contracts really going to look like?”

Enrique Ochoa, deputy energy minister, defended the scope of the proposal. “There has not been a constitutional reform on hydrocarbons in Mexico in more than 40 years,” Ochoa said. “This is indispensable for Mexico. It is a substantial change.”

Cecilia Sanchez of The Times’ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times

Photo: A protester holds a banner reading “Pemex is not for sale” at a 2008 political rally in Mexico City. (Alexandre Meneghini / Associated Press / March 18, 2008, via LA Times)