Uneasy Energy: As Mexico’s oil sector sputters, crime and violence rattle industry towns – by Gabriel Stargardter (Reuters U.S. – June 28, 2018)

https://www.reuters.com/

PARAÍSO, Mexico—Until recently, Edgar Barrera enjoyed a life many Mexicans could only hope for. In a few short years, the 36-year-old bookkeeper rose from handyman to white-collar worker at what seemed to be one of the most stable companies in Latin America: state-owned oil firm Pemex.

Thanks to Pemex, Barrera met his wife, vacationed on the Mayan Riviera and envisaged a rewarding career without leaving his hometown in Tabasco, a rural state at the southern hook of the Gulf of Mexico where more than half the population lives on less than roughly $92 a month.

Then everything changed. Oil prices plummeted, forcing Pemex to cut his and thousands of other jobs across Mexico. An energy reform, meant to spur business with private competitors, struggled to attract immediate investment. And the gang violence that has crippled Mexico over the last decade finally spread to Tabasco, previously a relatively peaceful corner of the country.

Mounting consequences, from an economic recession to soaring murder rates, have rapidly made Tabasco one of Mexico’s most troubled states. Its small, but once seemingly solid, middle-class now struggles with a downturn and lurid violence. Barrera himself, after brushes with extortionists and kidnappers who may have once been Pemex colleagues, recently sought asylum in Canada.

Paraíso, or “paradise,” is the Tabasco town where Barrera grew up and worked at a Pemex port. It is “now a hell,” he said. It’s little surprise that industry turbulence would hurt Tabasco, home to Mexico’s first petroleum discovery and a state where more than half the economy, and nearly half the jobs, rely on the oil sector.

For the rest of this article: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mexico-oil-violence/

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