The approval in Congress of the controversial electricity plan promoted by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is ultimately just a matter of numbers, as in the vast majority of parliamentary debates. Morena, the party that supports the government, and its allies have plenty of them. But the discussion of the Electricity Industry Law on Tuesday became an eternal amendment, practically point by point, of its articles. The Chamber of Deputies endorsed, after more than four hours of exchange, the general lines of the reform with 304 votes in favor, 179 against and four abstentions. However, dozens of opposition deputies and also some representative of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) presented more than 400 reservations to change the body of the project, sent by the president to the Legislative Branch in early February.
The debate itself reflects the controversial charge of the plan, which not only does not like the PAN, the PRI or the Citizen Movement, but also worries investors. The philosophy of legal change is essentially political. It is about, as López Obrador and the leaders of Morena have repeatedly stressed, to strengthen the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), a productive state company, against the initiative of individuals. The reform seeks to have greater sovereignty also in the energy sector. However, according to the opposition and most analysts, the economic and environmental repercussions can be very serious.
“We want electricity rates not to increase and we will achieve it. The opinion has a sense of democratic, popular and national responsibility, ”said Pablo Gómez Álvarez, from Morena. That argument, that is, that the electricity bills will finally drop thanks to the savings derived from public subsidies destined for private companies, has been the one most used by AMLO to defend his plan before the citizens. Deputy Raquel Bonilla maintained, according to the House bulletin, that the new law will put an end to speculation, favored in her opinion by the current system.
Both National Action and the institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Citizen Movement or the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) presented objections that raise the ineffectiveness of the new system and serious environmental concerns. This type of objection, related to renewable sources, also occurs in Morena’s own ranks.
In any case, despite the fact that the debate is on the way to becoming a marathon session, held in a blended way, the correlation of forces finally guarantees López Obrador approval of the law. The opinion, which was already approved by the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies last Friday, ensures that “the regulatory change under review in no way implies the granting of preferential treatment to the CFE” and, at the same time, that it is “essential to implement the necessary measures to stop weakening the CFE to the detriment of end users.”
Deputy María de los Ángeles Ayala Díaz, from the PAN, pointed out that the plan violates important international agreements. The same United States Chamber of Commerce stressed that the reform is in practice a violation of the commitments signed in the T-MEC, the free trade agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada that entered into force less than a year ago . The Spanish Chamber of Commerce (Camescom) also expressed its doubts and recalled that, according to the calculations of the Mexican Government’s Ministry of Economy, investments in the sector contributed almost 18,000 million dollars to the country. Even so, for the president it is a political and ideological battle that, after this debate and his passage through the Senate, in which he has all the premises to win.
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