Mexico’s historic vote in the Mexican Congress opening the country’s state-run oil industry to outside investors for the first time in 70 years was preceded by passionate debate, fisticuffs – and one legislator’s striptease.
Antonio Garcia Conejo, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, stripped down to his underwear during a speech Wednesday to dramatize his assertion the bill is a ‘plunder of the nation.’
The 353-134 vote will allow the government to give private foreign and domestic companies contracts and licenses to explore and drill for oil and gas, deals now prohibited under Mexico’s constitution.
The final step, approval by 17 of Mexico’s 31 states, is widely seen as assured.
The state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has had a monopoly since the government took over operations of foreign oil companies in 1938, a move that has been revered ever since as a symbol of national sovereignty.
Leftist lawmakers tried to block discussion of the measure on Wednesday by seizing the main chamber of the House of Deputies, blocking access with chairs and tables.
When the debate was moved to another room, they dragged out discussion for 20 hours before the measure was finally approved.
‘The homeland is not for sale! The homeland is to be defended!’ they shouted while holding protest signs and Mexican flags.
The proceedings took a strange turn when just before dawn Mr Garcia Conejo took the podium to protest the measuring, shedding his suit and tie.
Standing in a pair of black briefs on the dais, the chubby middle-aged lawmaker accused the ruling party of depleting the nation’s assets by signing off on past privatizations of telecommunications.
‘This is how you’re stripping the nation. Where is the benefit?
‘How shameful! But this doesn’t embarrass me,’ he proclaimed. ‘You, too, have a body.’