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At least 13 dead in attack on Mexico bar

Paramedics work at the scene of a shooting at the La Playa Men's Club bar in the central Mexican city of Salamanca left 13 dead and seven wounded in the wee hours of March 9, 2019. EPA-EFE/STR

Paramedics work at the scene of a shooting at the La Playa Men’s Club bar in the central Mexican city of Salamanca left 13 dead and seven wounded in the wee hours of March 9, 2019. EPA-EFE/STR

EFE

At least 13 people were killed and seven others were wounded in an attack early Saturday on a bar in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, where an operation is being carried out against fuel theft, authorities said.

An unknown number of assailants burst into the La Playa Men’s Club bar in the city of Salamanca and opened fire against customers and staff, they said.

The wounded were rushed to hospitals in Salamanca and the surrounding area.

An operation by state security forces, with backing from the army, is currently under way to track down the perpetrators of the attack, while the Guanajuato Attorney General’s Office has sent forensic experts to the crime scene to gather evidence, the authorities said.

The attack comes amid a federal government crackdown on criminal gangs that steal fuel from state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex’s) pipelines. In early March, an operation was launched to dismantle one of those criminal outfits, the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel.

Around 1,000 members of local and federal police forces, as well as marines, have been deployed to Santa Rosa de Lima, a town just outside Salamanca, as part of that operation.

Authorities also are trying to track down the alleged leader of that cartel, Jose Antonio Yepez Ortiz, alias “El Marro,” whom they blame for an uptick in the homicide rate amid a fuel-theft turf battle in Guanajuato.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador visited Guanajuato on Friday, giving a speech in the city of Leon in which he defended his fight against fuel theft.

Theft of fuel for re-sale on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico, costing the country some $3.4 billion last year, according to official figures.

After his Dec. 1 inauguration, the leftist Lopez Obrador launched an all-out fight against the racket, deploying thousands of police and troops to increase the surveillance of pipelines.

His administration also adopted a change in Pemex’s method for shipping gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport more fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines.

That modification caused severe bottlenecks in some states and Mexico City for several days, although the problems have since been alleviated.

Lopez Obrador said last month that his administration’s crackdown would enable Pemex to avoid losses from fuel theft totaling some 50 billion pesos ($2.6 billion).

For his part, Pemex CEO Octavio Romero said in February that an average of 8,000 barrels of fuel per day had been stolen that month, down sharply from an average of 56,000 bpd stolen in 2018.


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