On Saturday March 18, over 500,000 people took to the streets of the capital Mexico City to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the nationalization of the oil industry in the country, decreed by the then President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río. The citizens also mobilized to express their support for the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and its decision to nationalize the country’s lithium. The mobilization was called for by President AMLO.
The citizens marched from different parts of the city and gathered at the Zocalo, or Constitucion Square, where they were addressed by President AMLO. Speaking at the rally, President AMLO praised President Cárdenas for taking the significant steps, which paved the way for the nationalization of the oil and natural gas resources of the country. The head of state also praised several other measures taken by the Cárdenas government to improve the economic and social conditions of the country’s working class majority as well as to strengthen their organization.
During his six years in office, Army General Cárdenas implemented various pro-working class policies such as giving land back to peasants and farmers in the country, encouraging them to mobilize and form collective organizations, establishing new welfare programs for the poor, and nationalizing the railroad and petroleum industries. These policies in turn exerted more support and influence in favor of the president and his social policies.
“The general’s strategy can be summed up in three important and consecutive actions: first he handed over the land to the peasants and helped the workers; then he promoted their organization; and, finally, with that social base, he was able to carry out the expropriation of oil and other assets of the nation,” said AMLO.
Regarding his government plans to carry on the revolutionary legacy of President Cárdenas, President AMLO said that his government is working on “new projects” to produce gasoline, diesel, gas, and electric energy as well as to “rescue” refineries. “We can say that, after 85 years, the legacy of Lázaro Cárdenas is fully taken care of,” he said.
With respect to the 2024 presidential elections, AMLO highlighted his administration’s accomplishments such as the rise in average salary and the strengthening of the national currency. He also talked about his government’s social policies such as soft loans, decent pensions for the elderly, support programs for people with disabilities, single mothers, farmers and fishermen, scholarships for students from poor families, and the Internet for everyone.
In this regard, he indicated that any candidate from his party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), who replaces him in government if they win the elections in 2024 will continue with these policies “in favor of the people and the nation.” “Continuity is assured, with changes,” he added.
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President AMLO also addressed the latest remarks by conservative US politicians who called for military intervention into Mexico to allegedly combat drug cartels. He said that MORENA would always defend the country’s sovereignty and never allow the interference of the US.
“We remind those hypocritical and irresponsible politicians that Mexico is an independent and free country, not a colony or a protectorate of the United States. They can threaten us with committing any outrage, but we will never, ever allow them to violate our sovereignty and trample on the dignity of our homeland,” he stated.
Oil Expropriation Day
On March 18, 1938, the then left-wing President Lázaro Cárdenas del Río declared all mineral and oil reserves found within Mexico as the property of the nation, and embarked on the expropriation of all petroleum resources and facilities, nationalizing foreign oil companies operating in Mexico. The main reason for the expropriation was the constant refusal of the foreign oil companies to improve the salary and working conditions of the Mexican workers. Five days later, on March 23, 1938, over 200,000 Mexicans demonstrated in the zócalo of Mexico City in support of the Cárdenas government, hailing its project for energy sovereignty and policies to develop the national economy.
On April 12, 1938, tens of thousands of people from all classes once again came out in support of the Cárdenas government and gathered in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes to make donations to pay the debt to foreign companies.
On June 7, 1938, Cárdenas issued a decree creating a state-owned petroleum company, Petróleos Mexicanos or PEMEX, with exclusive rights over exploration, extraction, refining, and commercialization of oil in Mexico. Finally, on June 20, 1938, PEMEX began its operations.
March 18 is now observed as Oil Expropriation Day in Mexico. Workers in the oil and gas industry celebrate it with events to honor the sovereignty and national ownership of oil resources.