Mexican president blasts Spanish energy companies

Mexico City, Nov 10 (EFE).- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Spanish energy firms took advantage of deregulation under his predecessor to carry out a “second economic conquest” of Mexico and defended his proposal to reduce the role of the private sector in electricity provision.

The overhaul launched in 2013 by then-President Enrique Peña Nieto unduly favored “private companies, above all foreign companies,” the incumbent told reporters at his daily press conference.

“They brought this model from Spain when the Spanish companies carried out the second economic conquest, when it was they who commanded,” Lopez Obrador said.

“Look at Spain now. They dominate there as they dominated here and in recent months the price of electricity has increased by around 30 percent and there is a lot of discontent. We don’t want them to come back with this model,” the president, popularly known as AMLO, said.

The leftist government has submitted to Mexico’s Congress a draft constitutional amendment that would guarantee state-owned utility Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) control of at least 54 percent of electricity production.

The aim of the initiative is to halt the “abuse of consumers,” AMLO said.

Some environmentalists have criticized the plan for what they say will be its negative impact on the goal of expanding the use of renewable energy.

While the CFE relies mainly on hydro- and thermo-electric plants, the private companies that entered the market following deregulation have focused on wind and solar.

AMLO was scathing Wednesday about the environmental objections to his proposal.

“Let them stop lying: talking about clean energy when at the root it is about dirty business,” he said, alluding to a provision of the 2013 reform under which large commercial users of electricity collect massive subsidies as ostensible partners in renewable energy projects.

The government cites figures showing that an unsubsidized residential or small business customer pays 5.2 pesos per kilowatt hour on average, Walmart pays 1.7 pesos.

Congress will not take up the proposed constitutional amendment until April 2022, a delay AMLO said he welcomed because it allows plenty of time for analysis and consideration.

Energy firms have raised objections to the plan and the government of the United States, Mexico’s largest trading partner by far, has expressed “concerns” that the new regulatory framework might contravene existing trade and investment agreements. EFE er/dr

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