As Mexico opens its energy sector to private investors after 76 years of government monopoly, one of the biggest hurdles for foreign companies coming here isn’t geology, regulation or finding skilled workers. It’s the vicious drug cartels that virtually control the parts of northern Mexico where experts say there are big deposits of shale oil and gas.
“I’m afraid oil companies coming to Mexico will have to worry about insecurity as much as about drilling,” said Carlos Elizondo, an energy expert recently appointed to the board of former state monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex.
Chris Faulkner, the founder of Dallas-based Breitling Energy , which produces shale gas in South Texas and elsewhere, adds that “there are a lot of challenges with companies coming to Mexico because of security concerns.”
Geokinetics workers say they have come across human remains while doing exploratory work in the brush near the company’s base camp. Last year, two company engineers were kidnapped before being rescued by federal police and Mexican marines.
In 2012, an entire eight-man crew from a private Mexican oil-service firm went missing while working on well heads down river from Nuevo Laredo, according to media reports at the time. Neither the company nor Mexico’s government ever commented on the disappearance.
A young female engineer working for another service company in the Chicontepec oil basin in the coastal state of Veracruz was raped several months ago by a gang, according to two service contractors with direct knowledge of the incident who asked not to be named.
And, in the six years between January 2008 and March 2014, 12 Pemex workers were kidnapped, according to a document from the attorney general’s office obtained through Mexico’s transparency institute.
That doesn’t quite fit President Obama’s portrayal of Mexico as the Athenian Republic, with serapes in place of togas. Why would you police a border against such people?
Since late 2006, some 100,000 Mexicans have been killed in drug-related homicides and an additional 22,000 have gone missing. While drug-related homicides appear to have declined in the past two years, other crimes such as extortion and kidnapping have risen.
That’s almost the population of Hartford, CT murdered or missing in eight years. Not my cup of tequila.