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Mexican Government offensive against fuel theft causes widespread gas station shortages

08 January 2019

An offensive by Mexico’s new government against fuel theft at one of the country’s main refineries has led to a lack of fuel at gas stations in several central states, according to a Reuters report. The news agency said the shortages followed the closure of a pipeline from the Salamanca refinery in the central state of Guanajuato as the state-owned oil company Pemex started using more tankers to transport fuel.

Representative image - Shutterstock
Representative image - Shutterstock

Theft by gangs and oil industry workers from Mexico’s state-controlled refineries is a major drain on government resources, the report said, but the measures taken to tackle the crime could also weigh on the economy if shortages drag on.

Violent criminal gangs have for years used fuel theft as a way to supplement their income, bleeding money from state coffers and driving bloodshed as they fight rivals and extort oil workers.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, confirmed that less fuel was being sent through pipelines. He has vowed to tackle theft at Pemex, or Petroleos Mexicanos, which estimates that fuel worth more than 146 billion pesos ($7.40 billion) has been stolen since 2016 alone.

The president said last month that Mexico’s armed forces would take part in security at Pemex installations around the country, including its refinery in Salamanca.

Pemex said it is aiming to boost distribution in the affected states by up to 20% transporting fuel by tanker trucks and trains, according to Reuters.

A May 2017 study commissioned by the national energy regulator found that thieves, between 2009 and 2016, had tapped pipelines roughly every 1.4 kms along Pemex’s approximately 14,000 km pipeline network.

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