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Mexico: Should government be blamed for blast at Pemex gas facility?

This is the third fire at a Pemex gas facility in five weeks, and could suggest bigger problems – like safety and security regulations – need to be addressed.

By James BosworthGuest blogger / September 19, 2012

Fire and smoke rise from a gas pipeline distribution center in Reynosa, Mexico near Mexico's border with the United States, Tuesday Sept. 18. Mexico's state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, also known as Pemex said the fire had been extinguished and the pipeline had been shut off but 26 people were killed during the incident.

El Manana de Reynosa/AP

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz. The views expressed are the author's own.

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Yesterday, an explosion at a Pemex natural gas facility in Tamaulipas, Mexico left 26 dead. Authorities are investigating, but they suspect it was either an accident or the result of illegal tapping of pipelines by criminal groups. It's the third fire in five weeks at Pemex facilities in that state, suggesting a bigger set of problems that need attention.
 
Should President Felipe Calderon get the blame? I ask that because many analysts, myself included, were quick to jump on the mismanagement of Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government when an explosion killed over 40 people at the PDVSA refinery in Amuay last month. Poor maintenance, bad management, and an overall lack of investment and focus in the oil industry in Venezuela appear to have led to the explosion that night.

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Presidents Calderon and Chavez have some very different ideological viewpoints, but Pemex and PDVSA share more in common than either would like to admit. That includes a lack of investment and attention on the part of the country's political leadership. Calderon's focus on security issues, like Chavez's focus on social programs, certainly has distracted the president from reforming and improving the oil industry, which remains one of the country's main sources of revenue. If you think Chavez deserves blame at Amuay, then it's only fair that after six years in office, Calderon takes some of the blame for this disaster in Tamaulipas.

– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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