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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Wants Mexican Oil for Migrants

MEXICO CITY -- Mexican President Vicente Fox ruled out on Sunday a proposal by U.S. lawmakers to make immigration reform dependent on the opening of Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly, Pemex, to American investment.

In a communique issued by Fox's office, the president noted that an immigration agreement with the United States has been a priority for his administration, which began in December 2000.

"But in no way will it accept negotiating that agreement in exchange for the opening of Petroleos Mexicanos [Pemex] to foreign investment," he added.

Legalizing the status of some 3.5 million Mexicans working illegally in the United States has been a top priority for Fox since he took office in 2000. But the issue was put on a back burner by President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Fox's statement joined a chorus of objections to last week's resolution -- passed by the International Relations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives -- that any immigration accord should include provisions to allow U.S. companies to invest in Pemex.

The measure, narrowly approved Thursday on votes by the Republican majority, says any accord on immigration issues with Mexico should include an agreement to open Mexico's state oil company Pemex to U.S. investment.

It was a nonbinding "sense of Congress" amendment to a broad State Department funding measure and still faces approval by both houses of Congress.

Nearly ignored in the United States, the issue dominated Mexican headlines and political debate over the weekend.

Fox's election was accompanied by speculation about privatization of Pemex and the energy sector as a whole. The issue is sensitive as the company is a matter of pride as a symbol of national sovereignty and independence.

Mexican Senator Demetrio Sodi told the newspaper Reforma that the vote "is a sample of the ignorance of the U.S. legislators, of their arrogance and imperialist vision."

Gustavo Carvajal, head of the Mexican Congress' Foreign Relations Committee, asked sarcastically if the U.S. congressmen would let Mexicans visit the United States without prior visas or passports -- something Mexico has long allowed U.S. citizens.

Fox said his government has sponsored reforms of Pemex -- once listed among the world's most inefficient companies -- "to modernize its infrastructure and make its administration more transparent."

But he repeated that "in this government, Pemex will not be privatized nor sold."

Mexico celebrates the 1938 nationalization of Pemex as a symbol of national independence and it is written into the constitution.

"Pemex is not for sale; that is not a concept," Mexican Foreign Minister Ernesto Derbez said during a weekend visit to Colombia, Mexico's Reforma daily reported on Sunday.

Derbez said the Republican-sponsored resolution did not represent the views of the majority of the U.S. Congress.

Relations between the U.S. and Mexico cooled over Mexico's failure to support the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Some Mexicans opposed the war and suspected the U.S. attack was motivated by interest in Iraqi oil.

Both Bush and Fox have advocated an immigration agreement to reform a situation in which some major U.S. industries clearly depend on illegal, often exploited Mexican workers -- whose earnings have become a significant element in the Mexican economy.

(AP, Reuters)