Reverberations from April's deadly explosions in Guadalajara are shaking the state oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos. Long a symbol of Mexican nationalism and a den of secrecy, Pemex is being asked to divulge its inner workings--even to foreigners.

Responding to pressure to answer for the tragedy that killed about 200 people, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari called in engineering giant Bech~tel Corp. to inspect Pemex installations and review safety issues throughout the country. If the Bechtel report traces safety problems to Pemex' convoluted chain of command, it could give Salinas a chance to revamp the oil giant. So far, he has opened small doors for foreign contractors while pounding away at the once-powerful oil union to cut the work force from 210,000 to 155,000. But his privatization campaign has yet to touch Pemex, Mexico's last sacred cow. If the report provides Salinas with enough evidence of disarray, he could spin off pieces of the oil business, from petrochemical plants to tankers.

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