Mexico targets multibillion-dollar scourge of fuel theft
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday presented a plan to end the massive theft of fuel from pipelines, a racket that costs the country 66.3 billion pesos ($3.3 billion) a year, according to state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
“It’s a joint plan (involving) 15 sectors of the federal government. It’s already started and apparently there are good results, but we cannot declare victory yet because it’s just beginning,” the president said at his daily morning press conference.
Lopez Obrador said that this phenomenon, which has had a measurable impact on Pemex’s bottom line, goes far beyond the fuel thieves, known as “huachicoleros,” because Pemex workers and truckers have also participated in stealing fuel.
“That’s fuel theft but from the top. The hypothesis is that of all the theft, only 20 percent is from siphoning pipelines, which is a kind of (smoke screen) because most of it is undertaken with the complicity of the authorities,” the president said, adding that what was stolen this year is equivalent to 40 percent of the cost of building a refinery.
Pemex CEO Octavio Romero said that an average of 58,200 barrels of fuel were stolen per day this year.
The joint plan began monitoring the pipeline control system on Dec. 20.
The program, so far, has led to the removal of three Pemex officials, who are already in the custody of the authorities.
Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval, said that some 60 Pemex facilities will be guarded by about 4,000 soldiers and marines.
The president said that his administration already has spoken with the powerful leader of the oil-workers union, Carlos Romero Deschamps, explaining to him that there will be total openness and transparency in the investigations of Pemex employees.
“We are facing Mexico’s crisis by attending to the causes and ensuring that there is work, well-being, peace and tranquility, and we are also facing the crisis by bringing order to the chaos,” the president said.