Brad Will and the politics of oil

Fallout from murdered journalist reveals move to privatize PEMEX

MEXICO CITY - Flash back to October 27th, 2006. American photojournalist Brad Will is splayed out on a sidewalk in Oaxaca, Mexico, mortally wounded by the pistoleros of rogue governor Ulisis Ruiz during tumultuous street battles in that southern city. His killers have never been prosecuted.

Now fast forward to this past January 10th. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the unctuous leader of the once-ruling (71 years) PRI party faction in the Mexican Senate, announces to a gaggle of reporters that the PRI is prepared to back President Felipe Calderon and his right-wing PAN in passing an "energy reform" package that would permit transnational corporations to generate 49% of the nation's electricity and open PEMEX, the state petroleum monopoly expropriated from its Anglo-American owners in 1938 and nationalized by President Lazaro Cardenas, to such oil titans as Exxon, British Petroleum, and Shell. Beltrones' personal preference to initiate the proposed "association of private capitals": Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company which opened itself to private investment back in 1997 and which has extensive experience in deep water drilling.

What is the connection between these two apparently unconnected events? Just this: the cover-up of Brad Wills' death smoothed the way for the PRI-PAN partnership to privatize PEMEX.

Although his killers were plainly identified as plainclothes police on Ulisis's payroll, Wills' inconvenient death was ignored by then-president Vicente Fox despite demands by human rights and journalist protection organizations for a full investigation of the killing, one of 26 perpetrated by Ruiz's death squads between August and October of 2006. Fox's successor, Felipe Calderon, followed suit and stonewalled an inquiry into Wills' murder. Similarly, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico never sought justice for a slain citizen despite the personal pleas of the dead man's family.

Why such studied indifference?

Because holding Governor Ruiz, a prominent PRIista, accountable for the killing(s) would have upset the burgeoning alliance between the PRI and the PAN to ratify Calderon's legislative agenda, the most pertinent item of which was "energy reform" i.e. the privatization of PEMEX.

Embassy inaction on Brad Wills' murder followed the same logic. As U.S. ambassador, Bush crony Tony Garza is charged with representing U.S. interests in Mexico and Washington's interest in opening up Mexican oil to U.S. transnationals far outweighs its interest in bringing the killers of a freelance anarchist reporter to justice. The U.S. has long contemplated a North American Energy Alliance that would guarantee access to Mexican and Canadian reserves.

To this end, Washington has played an active role in facilitating the impending privatization of Petrolios Mexicanos. Over the past months, U.S. transnationals and their associates in government have orchestrated an extraordinary campaign to hoodwink Mexicans into swallowing the lie that PEMEX is hopelessly broken and must be opened to private capital forthwith for the salvation of the Fatherland.

Last July, ex-Federal Reserve czar Alan Greenspan was beamed into Mexico for a teleconference with the nation's most exalted business council to deliver an ultimatum: if PEMEX was not fixed quickly, the country faced fiscal crisis. Indeed, the petroleum giant (the 11th largest on the planet) generates 40% of Mexico's total budget and 100% of a social budget that keeps 70,000,000 Mexicans who live in and around the poverty line, in relative quiescence. By "fixing" PEMEX, Greenspan meant privatizing it.

It should be noted that Alan Greenspan is an expert on fiscal crises - his monetary policies just helped to tripwire such a crisis in his own country, the sub-prime disaster.