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Home / World / Long Lines and Guarded Fuel: Mexico’s Gas Crisis, Explained

Long Lines and Guarded Fuel: Mexico’s Gas Crisis, Explained



People are waiting in long, winding lines at Mexico City's service stations. Thousands of troops have been deployed to protect the pipelines through Mexico. Fuel is diverted to oil tankers accompanied by armed vehicles.

These are signs of a growing crisis in Mexico, where the government's recently assertive tactics to combat fuel theft from pipelines have triggered days of shortages in the capital and at least seven central states.

So, how did the country come?

Criminal gangs known as huachicoleros have long targeted the thousands of kilometers of gas pipeline that cross Mexico, often in rural areas bringing petrol from refineries to points distribution. They connect to an oil pipeline, suck gas and sell it, or work with corrupt workers to steal the fuel.

Stolen fuel economy has created an alternative market in many rural communities, but it has also cost dear government. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that about 60 billion pesos, or 3.14 billion dollars, in fuel were stolen last year

As part of the crackdown initiated by López Obrador, who took office in December, the vulnerable gas pipelines have been closed and the fuel has been diverted to secure trucks, a slow and logistically complicated process.

Pemex, the state energy company, said the new transport methods caused delays in delivering petrol to service stations. The long lines, he said, are not the result of actual fuel shortages.

"Pemex appeals to the support and understanding of the general public," the company said in a statement. "These operations will undoubtedly translate into benefits for all Mexicans."

Mr. López Obrador said on Friday that 4,000 military and police personnel were deployed to secure strategically important portions of pipelines, which stretch for about 375 miles and usually carry around 400,000 barrels of gasoline per day.

He did not say when the fuel would resume flowing through the closed sections, but he promised to continue his efforts to stem the thefts. Thefts were the result of part of the "incompetence or complacency" of local authorities, he said.

"This is what we fight against," said López Obrador, "because corruption can not be allowed". , also, said that there was enough fuel in the country: "It's just a matter of distribution."

Despite the long lines at the pumps, Mr. López Obrador showed no sign of changing his approach. He said that the amount of stolen fuel has decreased significantly due to his tactics.

"I said it before, and I'll say it again: let's see who gets tired first, because we'll stop the fuel theft," Mr. López Obrador said.

The metropolitan of Mexico City, with a population of over 20 million, has had days of shortage. Service stations were forced to close, companies dependent on transportation fuel suffered and millions of losses were reported.

While the president's strategy may have slowed the short-term theft, experts say the current strategy is unsustainable.

Asael Nuche, director of risk for Etellekt, a consulting firm that studies the problem, said in a column published in El Heraldo de Mexico that government moves were expensive and ultimately insecure.

"There is no more efficient and economical transport method than pipelines, so the only option for the federal government is to regain control over them," he wrote.

Businessmen say the fuel crisis has already been damaging. Gustavo de Hoyos, leader of the Mexican employers' association, Coparmex, told a news conference that a survey of 3,500 companies had reported losses of over $ 60 million.

For now, drivers are discharging their expectations, but the spirits are getting worn out. "This is not the way to do it," said Javier Cruz, a taxi driver who said he had spent three hours before reaching the pump. Who blamed? Mr. López Obrador.

Paulina Villegas helped bring back from Tijuana, Mexico, and Elisabeth Malkin from Mexico City.


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