Mexico lawmakers poised to debate energy reform: top senator

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 04, 2013 11:01 AM

By Miguel Gutierrez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican lawmakers are poised to send a landmark energy bill to Senate committees to start debate on a cornerstone of President Enrique Pena Nieto's economic reform drive, a top ruling party lawmaker said on Wednesday.

The bill, which would open Mexico's state-dominated energy sector to private investment in a bid to boost lagging output and growth in Latin America's No.2 economy, will still need approval of the Senate and lower house of Congress.

Lawmakers have been negotiating the fine print of the reform, which will determine how far-reaching it is. David Penchyna, leader of the Senate's energy committee and a member of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said he was confident the bill would pass.

"Today we can start installing commissions to be able to present a bill for full discussion," Penchyna told local radio, saying it may be presented later on Wednesday or on Thursday. "Things are on the right track. I am confident we will be able to get the votes needed."

His comments come after Mexico's Senate passed an electoral reform demanded by the opposition early on Wednesday, the last major obstacle to pushing on with the energy bill. The electoral bill still must be voted on by the lower house.

The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which is opposed to opening the oil sector to private investors, withdrew from a cross-party pact last week, raising hopes that PRI lawmakers and conservatives will pass a far-reaching energy reform.

Opposition conservatives have made their support for backing the energy overhaul, which aims to open the state-controlled oil sector to private investment, conditional on passage of the electoral reform.

The conservative National Action Party (PAN), the PRI's natural ally on the energy revamp, is pushing for more lucrative contracts to be offered, such as concessions, and lawmakers say they are exploring options for bigger changes.

Long the dominant force in Mexican politics, the PRI lacks a majority in Congress and needs PAN support to pass the energy bill, which is expected to happen later this month.

(Writing by Alexandra Alper and Simon Gardner; Editing by Vicki Allen)