By RICARDO CASTILLO
Back to the Salt Mines
Both houses of the Mexican Congress kicked off activities Monday, Feb. 1, after the Christmas sabbatical with an array of very important issues under discussion for voting as soon as legislators feel the bills are ready.
It came as no surprise that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on Friday, Jan. 29, sent his proposed electric industry bill to the Chamber of Deputies, accompanied by “a preferential priority” tag.
Deputies are suppose to revise the legality of the bill and its potential profitability for the government of the current sale-purchase contracts between independent clean energy producers and the state-run Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which, according to AMLO’s bill, “have caused great damage to the CFE heritage.”
The final draft of the initiative is opposed by a block of deputies from political parties other than the president’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) majority, as well as the private-sector clean energy companies that it would effect.
The CFE bill also seeks to do away of energy purchases through auctions, and revoke self-financing by suppliers, which, AMLO claims, “distorted the initial objective” of allowing electricity production by private companies.
Lawyers for these companies, most of which are foreign, have claimed that the bill would violate existing international contracts as well as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The president asked the Chamber of Deputies to have the bill ready and “voted on” within 30 working days.
Another bill that has already been discussed in “an open parliament” at the Senate by as many as 60 experts is the Central Bank of Mexico (Banxico) bill, which would require Banxico to purchase surplus dollars from private banks. Some of the stiffest opposition so far has come from Banxico’s board of directors.
Also, the leaders from the National Action Party (PAN), Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement (MC), all of whom oppose the bill, which its proponents say is intended to protect the U.S. dollar value of remittances, claim the effect will be the exact opposite.
Other bills pending in the Senate are the ones concerning labor outsourcing and insourcing, which should be voted on within two to three weeks’ time.
Debt Grows by 7.5 Percent
A final tally of the nation’s foreign debt published by the Finance Secretariat (Hacienda) last week stated that Mexico closed 2020 with 12.08 trillion pesos in debt, which represented a 7.5 growth over the 10.87 trillion pesos registered at the end of 2019.
The figures show that Mexico’s debt has increased by 7.7 percent during the 26 months of the AMLO administration.
The Hacienda report also said that the original forecast had been that the debt would amount to 52.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but, instead, the amount rose to 54.7 percent of the GDP.
“Fifty percent of this growth was mainly due to the effect of exchange rate valuation and the plummeting of the GDP,” officially gauged at minus 8.5 percent for 2020, the report said, noting that the increase could be blamed mostly on the covid-19 pandemic.
The 2020 rise in Mexico’s debt reflected the steepest GDP drop since the 1932 Great Depression.
Sputnik V Credibility Takes Flight
Months after most of the international medical community expressed doubts regarding the validity of Russia’s efficacy claims for its Sputnik 5 vaccine, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Kremlin published the results of its Phase 3 studies in the internationally acclaimed, peer-reviewed magazine, The Lancet, ranked among the world’s oldest and best-known general medical journals.
The Lancet publication stated that the provisional results of the clinical study were conducted with nearly 20,000 volunteers, out of which about 25 percent received a placebo.
Among other facts the study revealed was that the Sputnik V was 91.8 percent effective among seniors over 60, and was 100 percent effective preventing the development of serious symptoms or death.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, Mexico’s Central Bank (Banxico) said that U.S. dollar-denominated remittances from the United States for 2020 amounted to a total of $40.6 billion, up 11.44 percent over 2019.
This is the largest accumulated annual flow of remittances in Mexican history.
Banxico said that the increase was, in part, the result of a competitive peso-dollar exchange rate.
Also on Tuesday, the U.S. dollar was being purchased at 19.86 pesos each, and sold by different exchange houses for anywhere from 20.16 pesos to 20.36 pesos each, a normal exchange tally, after the peso lost ground against the greenback late last month.
Top Morena Candidates
Morena President Mario Delgado was in Mexicali over the weekend to officially launch his party’s support of Marina del Pilar Avila for governor of the state of Baja California.
The Mexicali mayor announced she would be requesting a leave of absence from her current post as of March 7 in order to gear up for the campaign trail that is to kick off on April 4.
Thus far the PAN-PRI-PRD coalition has not announced a candidate, although former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rohn seemed positioned to win.
But with a woman as Morena’s candidate, the coalition might also opt for a female as there are several ladies who want to compete for the position.
On this issue, current Baja Governor Jaime Bonilla, also from Morena, said that “Marina will certainly win because she’s both beautiful and intelligent, but make no mistake, this is not a beauty contest.”
Kuri for Queretaro
Senator-on-leave Mauricio Kuri said bye-bye to the Mexican Senate while asking for “an indefinite leave of absence” to pursue the PAN candidacy for governor of the central Mexican state of Querétaro.
It is worth noting that in this state, the PAN is not posting a coalition candidate.
Kuri said he was proud of his two-year stint of service, not only as a senator but also as the leader of the PAN group inside the Senate, where, he said, “we put up not just a tenacious opposition, but also prove we’re the best option for Mexicans.”
The registration deadline for candidates at the National Electoral Institute (INE) to run for one of the 15 state governorships at stake in the midterm elections is Feb. 15.
…Feb. 3, 2021