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Over 800,000 residents of Mexico City voted against legislation to privatize Mexico’s nationalized energy sector in a referendum held yesterday. A resounding 85% of voters rejected opening the publicly-owned Petrolos Mexicanos (PEMEX) to foreign investment.

Despite President Felipe Calderon’s opposition to any sort of referendum, 5,600 voting booths were staffed by over 17,000 volunteers in a civil society consultation.

If Calderon continues to push the legislation through congress, constitutional experts predict rough waters ahead for the country.

 “While Mexico’s oil and gas industry is facing serious challenges, foreign investment and free trade are not the answer,” said lawyer Steven Shrybman.

Shrybman represented CUPE this summer at trade and energy meetings held in Mexico City. The meetings, among unions in Canada, Mexico and the United States, were held in preparation for the next round of Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) discussions.

Shrybman urges Mexico to learn from the Canadian experience. “Canada is the only nation in the world that is committed to serving US energy needs in priority to its own,” he told the Mexico meetings. “This is because under NAFTA, US consumers are now entitled to at least 60% of Canadian natural gas, and approximately 65% of its oil and gas – and this US share continues to grow.  Moreover, even if supply shortages arise, Canada is precluded from meeting its own needs before those of the US.”