Mexico's Congress voted Thursday to open the country's moribund state-run oil industry to private investment after a raucous, 20-hour debate over the most dramatic energy reform in decades.
The 353-134 vote in the lower house all but guarantees that President Enrique Pena Nieto will achieve the crowning piece of his first-year reform package, allowing the government to grant contracts and licenses to private companies to explore and drill for oil and gas. Such oil contracts and licenses are currently prohibited under Mexico's constitution.
The state-run oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, has had a monopoly since the sector was nationalized in 1938, and the country's oil has been seen as a symbol of sovereignty ever since. The bill now must be approved by the legislatures of 17 of Mexico's 31 states.
Opponents say they want to bring the reform to public referendum and fear that multinationals, especially from the U.S., will once again gain the sort of control they had over Mexico's oil before 1938.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS