MEXICO CITY Feb 15 Mexico has ordered state oil
monopoly Pemex to provide details about a controversial
multimillion dollar loan it made to its trade union, Interior
Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told a Mexican newspaper.
Overhauling Pemex, which has been dogged by
allegations of corruption, is one of the government's top
priorities in 2013, and this week daily Reforma revealed details
of a 500 million peso ($39.42 million) loan the firm made to the
union in 2011.
Osorio Chong told the paper that President Enrique Pena
Nieto had ordered an explanation of that the loan, which has
been questioned by lawmakers as potentially illegal.
"Let's not get ahead of the official information, and once
we have that we will provide our own information," Osorio Chong
said. "The public deserves to know, given what's come out."
"The president has instructed (Pemex chief Emilio Lozoya) to
provide information relating to the article published," he
Any revelations of wrongdoing at Pemex, which suffered a
deadly explosion at its headquarters late last month, could
increase pressure on the company to submit to changes.
According to Pemex's loan agreement, which the company had
ordered classified for a decade, the money was given to the
union for 10 years, did not charge interest, and was used to
build homes, the paper reported.
The union's leader Carlos Romero Deschamps later defended
the loan, saying it was part of Pemex's duty to provide housing
for its workers.
However, Reforma said Pemex had not reported any such
housing project when it published the story this week.
Pena Nieto, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary
Party (PRI), has pledged to shake up Pemex, whose oil output has
slumped to less than 2.6 million barrels per day from 3.4
million bpd in 2004, and open it up to more private investment.
But this is no easy task as the company has been a symbol of
Mexican self-sufficiency since the PRI nationalized the oil
industry in 1938, and past attempts at reform have foundered.
The union has had to face down scandals in the past, notably
during the 2000 presidential election, when it was accused of
embezzling some $200 million from Pemex and funneling it into
the PRI's ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
The most serious charges in the row dubbed "Pemexgate" were
dropped in 2003 but detractors still accuse union leaders of
siphoning off cash and using Pemex contracts for their own gain.