Mexico may be hitting the perfect storm when it opens its energy resources to foreign investors
Filmmakers: Paul Sapin and Verity Oswin
Against the backdrop of Mexico’s ever-widening gap between rich and poor, growing violence, and stalled economy, President Enrique Pena Nieto has passed a series of economic reforms.
Under these reforms, Mexico’s oil, which was expropriated from foreign interests 75 years ago, is now for sale to private, international companies.
The reforms are the most divisive the country has seen in a century. Thousands are protesting against them, saying the new regulations could bring the nation to a tipping point as organised crime and violence would spiral out of control.
When it comes to big business and drilling for oil, Mexico’s farmers are the most vulnerable.
Twenty years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which opened Mexico up to trade with the US and Canada, led to the collapse of agriculture, and paved the way to the privatization of oil.
The operations of Mexico’s state-owned oil company, Pemex, have never been entirely transparent, and communities have been crippled by oil disasters. For instance, in October 2013, the state of Tabasco experienced its worst oil disaster when a drill site exploded and burned for 55 days, contaminating the surrounding land and water. Villagers closest to the site say they are suffering from health problems and have lost their livestock. They say Pemex has never accepted responsibility for the accident, nor has it offered any compensation.
People who appear in this film, including lawyers working with communities affected by the oil industry, estimate things are likely to get worse when foreign companies start drilling. Mexican human rights lawyer Efrain Rodriguez Leon says, “if Pemex committed all of these injustices, we can’t imagine what abuses our indigenous brothers will suffer at the hands of these private companies.”
With multinationals poised to come, Mexican farmers stand to lose their livelihoods and land, because the new reforms allow companies to drill and occupy areas wherever there is oil.
In Crude harvest: selling Mexico’s oil, we meet the victims of oil drilling and free trade, and examine what could happen when foreign investors move in.