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The Empire Struck Back: The Mexican Oil Expropriation Of 1938 Reconsidered

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Executive Summary

The Mexican expropriation of 1938 was the first large-scale non-Communist expropriation of foreign-owned natural resource assets. The literature generally makes three assertions: the U.S. government did not fully back the companies, Mexico did not fully compensate them for the value of their assets, and the oil workers benefitted from the change in ownership. This paper musters data and evidence that supports only the first of those assertions, and only to a limited extent: the companies devised political strategies that maneuvered Roosevelt into supporting their interests, and they were more than fully compensated by the Mexican government as a result.

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