Mexican presidential hopeful Lopez Obrador says he would revise oil contracts

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - If elected, Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will review oil contracts signed after historic reforms in the sector, the leftist politician said on Tuesday.

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The 63-year-old leads various polls ahead of next year’s presidential election, and opponents looking to keep him out of office denounce him as a populist who would seek to emulate Venezuela’s socialist government.

Mexico opened up its energy sector with sweeping reforms in 2013 and 2014 to give investors the chance to participate in oil exploration and extraction.

It has held auctions for sites on land as well as in shallow and deep water, in its efforts to boost energy production.

“We will intervene because we don’t want to end up not producing petroleum,” Lopez Obrador said in a speech at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C.

“The fall in production must be stopped – if not, we will end up buying crude oil, and we can’t have that. We are going to intervene quickly and we are going to review the contracts.”

The leader and founder of the political party Morena did not specify the form of the intervention. But he said he would not trust those who had signed the contracts for Mexico and would ensure the pacts were favorable for the country.

“We are not going to act in an arbitrary way, we are going to be respectful of the law, but we will review the contracts,” Lopez Obrador said.

“Everything related to Pemex must be public business - their profits are for the Mexican people and we must look after them. It is not an ideological matter, it is not a political matter.”

Mexican crude production hovers around 2 million barrels per day, off a height of 3.4 million in 2004. Authorities have said after the reform production would increase gradually over several years.

The reform had not lived up to its promise, said Lopez Obrador, adding that his industry plan included a refining stimulus, through the modernization of six of state-run oil company Pemex’s refineries in Mexico.

He also called for two more refineries to be built so that Mexico would not have to continue importing more than half the gasoline it consumes.

“We sell crude oil and we buy gasoline, and it’s necessary to pay a surcharge of 30 percent just for the freight, money that could be saved if the gasoline was made in Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said.

Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Clarence Fernandez