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Oil & Politics in Mexico ABSTRACT The


The experience of boom and collapse in the Mexican oil industry during the 1970s and early 1980s is examined, with particular emphasis on the interrelation between oil and politics in Mexico, and especially on the role of political corruption.

The oil sector has played an important part in twentiethcentury Mexican politics, and even on the shaping of the Mexican national identity. From preColumbian times, natural seepage of oil has been known in Mexico, and seepage oil was used in preColumbian religious ceremonies. During the late nineteenth century, a number of abortive efforts were made to develop oil production in Mexico. A Mexican oil industry came into being only after the turn of the twentieth century, however, and though Mexican expertise was responsible for identification of the first productive fields, the industry was owned and controlled in its early decades by foreign economic interests.

Mexican tradition and its Spanishderived law held that the natural mineral wealth of the country, including its oil reserves, belonged to the state, which held them as a patrimony for the people. During the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, however, foreign capital had been actively sought for development. The consequence had been widening social divisions, and a state of affairs in which a substantial fraction of Mexico's land and other resources were in foreign hands.

The Mexican Revolution, which broke out in 1910 and lasted into the 1930s, was in part a reaction to this large degree of foreign dominance. During much of the revolutionary era, the oil industry was itself little effected, however, since it was located largely in remote areas of the country. Once the revolution ended, however, the new ruling Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) sought to consolidate its gains. One of the most popular me...

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