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Mexican legislators question top energy officials over corruption, reform

By Renzo Pipoli
Mexican legislators question top energy officials over corruption, reform
Mexican state oil company Pemex CEO Carlos Trevino (C) inspects some of the company installations on Sept. 20, 2018. On Thursday, Trevino was questioned by members of Mexico's Congress. Photo courtesy of Pemex

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Representatives of diverse political groups in the Mexican Congress questioned the top energy officials in Mexico over corruption linked to alleged Odebrecht bribing, organized fuel theft, declining investment, as well as about potential loss of sovereignity related to the energy reform.

The Mexican channel of Congress reported that on Thursday, legislator Marco Gomex, of the Mexican Ecological Green Party, questioned Pemex CEO Carlos Trevino about whether alleged bribing by Brazilian company Odebrecht helped it to gain contracts.

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Trevino, who was appointed Pemex CEO in November 2017, said that the investigation is "ongoing." He added that Mexican state attorneys have already questioned 20 Pemex officials and two former Odebrecht officials. He said that Pemex has also made all contracts it had with Odebrecht public.

Legislator Gerardo Fernandez, of the left-oriented Labor Party, asked why were Mexican officials "betraying" the nation by pushing forward an energy reform he said only worked "in favor of multinationals and friends of government".

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Pedro Coldwell, who has headed the Mexican Energy Department since December 2012 -- during a period marked by Mexico opening its energy industry to private investment -- replied that "assigning oil contracts in the best conditions for the nation and with 74% revenue without having the State risk not even one penny" is not betrayal.

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Legislator Manuel Rodriguez of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) -- a group led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who won the July 1 presidential elections and will take the presidential seat Dec.1 -- asked why investment in Pemex declined, making the company less competitive.

According to Coldwell, declines in oil prices in previous years caused a 75 percent revenue loss and revisions that forced officials to slash spending budgets by more than half and that the company accumulated severe net losses.

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Silvia Garza, of the conservative National Action Party, also questioned Coldwell about fuel and oil theft, inquiring as to investigations of Pemex officials potentially implicated in fuel theft from company pipelines. Coldwell said he would "answer the question in writing."

Trevino said that during the past six years Pemex detected 40,000 clandestine connections for theft and is "a victim of organized crime".

According to a study paid by Mexican energy authorities, there several large criminal, and drug trafficking, organizations, as well as entire communities, fuel station owners and current and former employees of the state oil company involved in such acts.

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In a recent incident in the State of Veracruz, one Pemex security agent was killed Wednesday during a confrontation with suspected fuel thieves that had extracted gasoline from a Pemex pipeline using a truck later left abandoned with 31,000 liters of stolen fuel.

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According to past comment by Pemex officials, the volumes of stolen fuel had reached the equivalent of 26,000 barrels per day in 2017.

Lopez Obrador has said he will examine contracts related to the energy reform and announced investments for a bigger participation of the state in the country's energy industry.

The Brazilian company Odebrecht has been involved in bribery related scandals throughout Latin America, leading to resignations and some being sent to jail in many countries.

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