MEXICO CITY – President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that some foreign companies failed to fulfill the terms of “juicy” contracts and called on the private sector to act ethically.
“Mexico is not a conquered land. There are foreign firms that received really juicy contracts and did not fulfill the terms, and they got preferential treatment during the neoliberal period,” the president said, referring to previous administrations.
Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said his administration, which took office on Dec. 1, was against corruption, not the private sector.
The president called on business groups to stop “blindly” defending the private sector and to instead support business leaders who have an “ethical vision.”
AMLO also urged foreign governments to back companies from their countries with a “moral attitude.”
On Monday, Lopez Obrador accused former high-level government officials of working with energy companies, many of them foreign-owned, as part of a “perverse plan” to weaken the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).
Lopez Obrador said the Austerity Law of the Republic would prevent public officials from taking jobs in the private sector related to their former areas of oversight, a common practice in Mexico.
New regulations will be implemented that will ban the practice by requiring that former government officials wait 10 years before taking jobs in the private sector, Lopez Obrador said.
“It’s not illegal, but it’s immoral and shameful. Not even in the United States, where you have greater public-private interaction, do you have these kinds of cases,” AMLO said, adding there was no “border” in Mexico between the public and private sectors.
The administration also alleged on Monday that Grupo Carso, IEnova and TransCanada, which own seven large gas pipelines, were receiving subsidies at a cost of $21 billion to the CFE even though the pipelines were not operating.
Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that he planned to speak with the companies to see what can be done to get the projects online.
The president once again criticized the press, saying that conservative media outlets had backed privatization in several industries, including the electric utility sector.
Former President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was in office from 2012 to 2018, pushed an overhaul of the energy industry through Congress.
In 2014, Lopez Obrador brought a legal challenge against Peña Nieto over the heart of the energy reform – a constitutional change allowing private companies to develop Mexico’s crude oil reserves for the first time since the late 1930s, when then-President Lazaro Cardenas nationalized the petroleum industry and created state-owned oil giant Pemex.
Since taking office, AMLO has worked to undo several of his predecessor’s major policy initiatives.