– EPR proposes negotiations with Mexican government
– Conflict arises over discussion terms, stalling talks in the near-term
– Establishing a peace agreement to remain a goal for the government, as debate rises over other oil industry issues
In late-April 2008, the Mexican rebel group, the Popular Revolutionary Army, or Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), proposed discussions with the Mexican government in exchange for a cessation of investigations into their group members. The EPR is responsible for a series of attacks in 2007 on oil pipelines in Mexico, and the government wishes to negotiate a cease-fire with the group to ensure further security of the crucial oil infrastructure. Mexico’s pipelines span thousands of miles, for which the government lacks the resources to provide necessary physical security. A peace accord with groups such as the EPR that have attacked pipelines in the past remains an important mission to protect the energy infrastructure (Previous Report).
While the government showed initial interest in conducting talks, conflict over the provisions under which talks could commence will likely delay any meetings in the near-term. However, a peace agreement to establish infrastructure security will likely remain a mid to long-term goal of the Mexican government, as debate continues over the opening of Mexico’s energy market to foreign partners.
Status of Government Talks
On April 28, 2008, the EPR posted a statement online proposing a cease-fire with the Mexican government (Previous report). The message requested the government stop investigations into the group in exchange for discussions. While the government is interested in pursuing a dialogue, officials have stated that investigations would continue, as ceasing to pursue the EPR would be tantamount to abandoning its “constitutional duty to pursue justice”.
However, the promise of discussions between the EPR and government was short-lived, as on May 8, 2008, the EPR rejected the government’s proposal to hold direct talks. The EPR is angered over the government’s refusal to halt ongoing investigations into EPR activities, and has refused to sit down directly with government officials. However, the group claims to remains open to holding talks through an intermediary panel, which the group suggests consists of a range of leftist political figures.
EPR’s Grievances with the Government
The EPR remains insistent on the provisions the government must follow to initiate discussions for a ceasefire. The group continues to blame the government for the disappearance of two of its members from the state of Oaxaca in early 2007. While the government denies this claim, it has stated that investigations remain ongoing into the individuals’ disappearance. Further, the government has stated that any talks would focus on broader issues of peace with the group.
Impact on Mexican Oil Industry
Considered one of the largest attacks perpetrated by the group, the EPR is responsible for a series of attacks on oil infrastructure in July and September 2007 on Pemex’s pipelines, the Mexican state-owned oil company, in northern Mexico (Previous Report). The blasts cost industries reliant on the pipelines, such as auto-making and steel, as well as Pemex itself, millions of dollars.
If the talks are to succeed, this would be a positive step for Pemex, as a ceasefire would greatly diminish the likelihood for additional attacks on Mexico’s oil infrastructure in the near to mid-term. Energy officials also believe initiating talks would help to attract outside investors in the energy industry, as negotiations would be a sign of greater security. Currently, the government lacks the necessary resources to adequately protect the nearly 7,000 miles of pipelines, and an agreement with the EPR is seen as the most feasible option to ensure ongoing security.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon introduced an energy reform bill in March 2008, which hopes to open the oil industry to partnerships with foreign companies (Previous Report). While the bill remains hotly contested and will likely not be decided upon until Congress reconvenes in September 2008, securing a peace accord with the EPR would be useful to President Calderon to entice potential investors provided the bill is passed. If security of the pipelines needed to transport crude oil can be promised, future investors are likely to pursue work in Mexico more aggressively.
The start of discussions will likely be prolonged in the near-term, as both the government and the EPR remain set on the concessions each side must make before beginning talks. While the EPR has not launched any bombings on pipelines since September 2007, the inability of both sides to agree on conditions for peace could lead to small-scale attacks by EPR in the near-term. The group may want to demonstrate that they still maintain the operational capability to execute attacks and prove to the government that they deserve adequate attention.