Anti-Pemex reform protest
A supporter of centre-left political parties wears a banner that reads "Pemex not for sale" during a demonstration against the privatization of the state-oil monopoly Pemex in Mexico City. Reuters

Mexicans on the left side of the political spectrum rose in defense of oil giant Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, Saturday afternoon, when about 8,000 demonstrators walked through the streets of Mexico City demanding a stop to the energy reform that would open the state-owned company to private investors.

The protest was led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, founder of left-wing Partido de la Revolución Democrática, or PRD, and son of former President Lázaro Cárdenas, who in 1938 expropriated Pemex in a much-revered national pride move. “No steps backwards in the defense of oil and electricity,” he said in a speech in the historical Zócalo Square in Mexico City, which was covered by El Universal.

The demonstration was the most significant of all moves against the energy reform proposed by President Enrique Peña Nieto Aug. 12 and to be debated by the Senate this month. Peña Nieto defended the need for the energy sector to be modernized and revitalized, saying the best way to do it is by opening the debt-riddled, obsolete Pemex to private and foreign investment.

Peña Nieto said in his presentation that Pemex would still belong to Mexico and that private companies would exploit sites under agreements, but that they would own neither them nor the extractions. The president insisted that the proposal respected word-by-word the principles outlined by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1938.

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas has rebutted that the suggested reform does not follow his father’s wishes, and that it is the first veiled step toward a full privatization of Pemex.

Cárdenas, who has become a symbol of the protest against the energy reform, started this protest on his own means, without involving his party at any point -- a sign of the fragmentation of left-wing politics in Mexico. Former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, formerly with PRD, will have his own anti-reform demonstration in Mexico City Sept. 8, according to El País.