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Mexico: The film director and the president


Alfonso Cuarón is one of Mexico’s best-known film directors. He directed Gravity, Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.

10 questions from (Mexican) citizen Alfonso Cuarón to President Enrique Peña Nieto

Mr Enrique Peña Nieto

President of the United States of Mexico

Firstly, I would like to thank you for your congratulatory messages in which you recognised the success and the awards that my film Gravity received.

Alfonso Cuarón. Photo: WikimediaI would also like to take this opportunity to express a concern which I am certain I share with many Mexicans. I am referring to the recent Energy Reform.

During an interview with León Krauze on 26th February, you asserted that I was ill informed about our country’s Energy Reform. You added that “in Mexico there has been no shortage of groups in opposition to these reforms who have generated misinformation and have thus led others to buy into these arguments, or, without sufficient information they simply do not understand the extent and rationale behind the reforms.”

My own lack of information cannot be attributed to “opposition groups” who have generated misinformation. The reason is much simpler; the legislative and democratic process in which these reforms were carried out lacked any substantial discussion, and its contents were announced as part of a propaganda campaign which avoided a public debate. I am not informed precisely because the government you head has not shared with me – or we the Mexican people – the essential elements that would help us understand “the extent and the meaning behind these reforms”.

In the same interview you said that “…the reforms are recognised throughout the world because people know that the implementation of these reforms will allow Mexico to develop economically and improve its social conditions.” This argument does not surprise me but neither does it convince me. It is normal that an energy reform (in a country which has nationalised these resources) is wholeheartedly welcomed by the markets, but it’s naïve to think that the desire to see our country’s development lies at the heart of this international recognition. And don’t get me wrong; I celebrate along with everyone else, provided  that my country and its citizens are the principal beneficiaries – socially and economically – and that the environment is adequately respected.

... And one last question: Why not debate with us?The Energy and Oil Reform is the most profound and important reform of its kind Mexico has experienced in decades. It has, plainly and simply, shifted the paradigm of national development. On the understanding that the Congress will approve your initiative on the secondary laws of this reform., Allow me to ask you to inform us about “the meaning and the extent of the reform.” I am asking not as an expert but as a citizen, concerned about Mexico’s future, and I ask as a citizen of absolute political independence.

I am conscious that this is a vast issue. As a result I have drawn up ten questions, the answers to which could dispel some doubts about the reform. 

1. When will the prices of natural gas, gasoline, fuel oil and electricity go down? What other tangible benefits are expected from the Reform? What is the timescale for the delivery of these benefits?

2. What specific effects will the methods of mass exploitation have on the environment? What measures will be taken to protect the environment and who will assume responsibility in case of oil spills or disasters?

3. Hydrocarbons are a non-renewable resource and their impact on the environment is enormous. Are there plans to develop technologies and infrastructures for alternative energy in our country?

4. Many multimillion dollar contracts will ensue from the approval of this reform. In a country like ours with a rule of law that is so weak (and often non-existent), how can instances of large scale corruption be avoided?

5. Multinational oil companies have as much power as many governments in the world. What measures will be taken to ensure that the democratic process in our country avoids being tainted by illicit financing and other undue pressures from narrow interests?

6. What regulatory frameworks is the Mexican government counting on in order to avoid the predatory practices employed by private businesses in the energy sector?

7. How can we be certain that the Reform will increase productivity of Pemex if the problems of corruption within the Oil Workers’ Union is not dealt with?

8. For 70 years Pemex has provided over half of the federal budget (with which the national infrastructure was built, in addition to supporting education and free health services). Now that the oil revenues will not flow directly from Pemex to public funds, how will the budget continue to provide such services?

9. How can we be certain that the profits are not channelled towards the expansion of bureaucracy but in fact reach the original owners of these resources, the Mexican people?

10. Two disastrous experiences linger in the Mexican people’s memory: the debt crisis of 1982 (a result of the wastefulness, ineptitude and corruption that characterised the management of the oil wealth of the 1970s) and the discretionary and opaque reforms during the presidency of Salinas de Gortari, which benefitted private interests but was doubtful for consumers.

How can we be guaranteed that these experiences, which have widened social divides, are not repeated? You and your party hold historical responsibility for these reforms. Do you really believe that the Mexican state has the means to carry out these reforms with efficiency, concern for social welfare and transparency?

I would like to thank you for your kind attention to this letter.

Along with many Mexicans, I await your response.

Respectfully yours,

Alfonso Cuarón


The original article, in Spanish, can be read here. Translated for LAB by Romina de Oliveira

Main image: by blogger Bajadock 13

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