At the entrance to the municipality of Paraíso, in the southeastern Mexican state of Tabasco, there is a traffic circle that displays three things that are emblematic of the area: crabs, pelicans and mangroves.
A dark mole dots the brown earth, among the green scrub at this spot in southeastern Mexico. A repetitive “glug, glug,” a noise sounding like a thirsty animal, and an intense stench lead to this site, hidden in the undergrowth, where a broken pipe has created a pool of dense oil.
Mexico’s hydrocarbons law stipulates that oil contracts must include a social impact assessment. But this has not been done in the case of the oilfields granted to the country’s former oil monopoly, Pemex, or to private companies since the industry was opened up to private investment.
The new legal framework for Mexico’s oil industry has not placed controls on the use of harmful chemicals in the extraction of unconventional fossil fuels, and environmentalists and experts fear their consumption will increase in an industry that is opening up to private capital.