Mexican Left leaves Patil 'homesick'

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By K.P. NAYAR
  • Published 18.04.08
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Mexico City, April 17: President Pratibha Patil, who arrived last night in Mexico on a three-day visit, is unpleasantly surprised to find herself in familiar territory.

Mexico’s parliament, which the President was to address today, has been paralysed, under siege by Left legislators for a week and Patil was forced to cancel her much-anticipated address to its joint session.

A few hours before Patil’s arrival in Mexico City, Left legislators forced ruling party members of the senate and the chamber of deputies to flee the parliament building and seek refuge in a cramped auditorium here to hold a 20-minute meeting, which local newspapers described as “symbolic”.

Patil’s sense of deja vu over the predicament of her Mexican hosts is on two tracks.

On the one hand, she has seen India’s Parliament similarly paralysed frequently during her career in politics. On the other, far away from home, even half-way round the globe, Patil has no respite from the Left’s attempts to stymie governments which seek to promote economic reform.

Mexican legislators have paralysed their parliament to protest against President Felipe Calderon’s plans to raise the private sector’s share in oil exploration and production. National ownership of oil wealth is an emotive issue in Mexico since then President Lazaro Cardenas nationalised oil industry in 1938.

Most Mexicans see national ownership of oil as a symbol of their country’s sovereignty, much like the Left in India sees in the Indo-US nuclear deal an erosion of Indian sovereignty.

The Left here is determinedly championing that sentiment and Patil is paying a price for the group’s actions here during her visit.

According to Mexican newspapers, Left legislators last night offered a compromise by way of a temporary suspension of their takeover of the parliament to allow Patil to address them, but some constituents of the coalition that is opposing oil sector liberalisation vetoed the suspension.

The cancellation of the President’s address to a joint session of the Mexican legislature comes close on the heels of confusion over the nature of her interaction with legislators in Brazil two days ago.

The Brazilians were so enthusiastic about the Indian President’s state visit that during the planning stage, they proposed separate meetings for her in both Houses of Brazil’s bicameral legislature.

That could not be fitted into her crowded 24-hour programme in Brasilia. Brazil’s new ambassador in New Delhi, Marco Antonio Diniz Brand, told Indian journalists accompanying Patil that in accordance with the convention in his country, leading legislators from different parties were then invited to interact with her in both Houses.

Brand said that accounted for the small number of legislators who were present during her visit to the parliament in Brasilia.

What is puzzling, however, about the cancellation of Patil’s address to the parliament in Mexico is that the country’s legislature has been under siege before the President left New Delhi for Latin America.

Mexico itself has been experiencing uncertainties since Left leader Andres Manuel Lepez Obrador lost the presidential election in 2006 to Calderon by a tiny margin and his followers accused Calderon of stealing the election.

An event such as the last-minute cancellation of Patil’s address to the parliament should, therefore, have been anticipated and not scheduled at all to avoid awkwardness on both sides.