Mexico: Officials pushed energy privatization for personal gain


The Mexican government presented Monday a list of former senior officials who took lucrative jobs in the private sector after pushing for liberalization of the energy industry during their tenure in government.

Launching the attack was the head of state electric utility CFE, Manuel Bartlett, who blamed “an alliance of private sectors with these former authorities” for a 50 percent decline in output at the enterprise he now runs.

Bartlett, in his turn at the podium during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ‘s morning press conference, went on to announce the names of several ex-officials who currently participate in the private energy sector.

The list goes back to public officials who served during the 1988-1994 presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, whose then-chief of staff, Jose Cordoba Montoya, is now the owner of a company that provides energy services.

Former Energy Secretary Jesus Reyes Heroles, who also served as CEO of state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), also participates in energy consultancies.

Carlos Ruiz Sacristan, who was secretary of communications and transportation during the 1994-2000 administration of Ernesto Zedillo, is chairman and CEO of energy-infrastructure firm IEnova.

Jordy Herrera, who was secretary of energy during the 2006-2012 term of Felipe Calderon is an energy broker, Bartlett said.

Finally, he cited several charges that could be related to Spain-based multinational Iberdrola and its Avangrid subsidiary.

Alejandro Flemming, once the head of legal affairs in the Energy Secretariat, is secretary and a member of the board of Iberdrola Mexico, he said.

Alfredo Elias Ayub, CFE chief for a “long period,” is a non-executive director of Avangrid, and Georgina Kessel, who served as secretary of energy under Calderon, is an independent member of the Iberdrola board.

Bartlett also recalled that Calderon, who was secretary of energy under predecessor Vicente Fox, is likewise an Avangrid board member, though sources in the energy sector said that the former president left the company in December.

“I said it during the visit of the prime minister (Pedro Sanchez) of Spain tp Mexico. We want domestic and foreign private investment but for companies to act with ethical vision. How it is possible for a foreign company to hire a former president?” Lopez Obrador said. “This is immoral.”

The leftist president said last Friday that previous administrations opened the energy sector to private firms with the intent of undermining CFE.

Bartlett referred to “the looting” of CFE during the 2012-2018 term of President Enrique Peña Nieto , whose energy overhaul had the effect of leaving the utility in a diminished state.

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 Pemex.

Since taking office Dec. 1, the new president has worked to undo several of his predecessor’s major policy initiatives.