23 | ABR | 2019
Fuel shortage affects Mexico
Fuel theft in Mexico – Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Fuel shortage affects Mexico

Reuters y redacción
Mexico City
Fernando Carranza Garcia, Anthony Esposito, Misael Zavala
-A +A
Theft by gangs and oil industry workers from Mexico’s state-controlled refineries is a major drain on government resources

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An offensive implemented by Mexico’s new government against fuel theft at one of the country’s main refineries has led to days of shortages at gas stations in several central states, as authorities move more fuel by tankers and less by vulnerable pipelines.

A witness said many gas stations in the city of Guadalajara in Jalisco were closed on Sunday, including those operated by state oil firm Pemex, Spain’s Repsol and BP. There were long lines of motorists at those that were operating.

“I’ve gone to 10 gas stations and nothing, there’s none at any of them,” said Alan Delgado, trying to fill his Buick truck at a BP gas station in Guadalajara. “This is a serious and critical situation because it complicates work and businesses.”

The shortages followed the closure of a pipeline from the Salamanca refinery in the central state of Guanajuato, and as Pemex started using more tankers to transport fuel.

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

For years, violent criminal gangs have 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 Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December, confirmed that less fuel was being sent through pipelines.

“I ask citizens for understanding and support because we need to solve this problem together. We are trying to solve it soon,” López Obrador said in a televised speech.

Obrador has vowed to tackle theft “outside and inside” Pemex, which estimates that fuel worth more than MXN $146 billion has been stolen since 2016 alone.

During a press conference, President López Obrador said that although fuel theft is still taking place, it has decreased from 1000 tanker trucks per day to 100 per day.

He acknowledged that there has been shortage in some states but said that “I can tell people we have enough fuel and there's no shortage, what we're looking after the distribution, not opening the taps so there are no leaks, we're carefully opening the tabs and that means we're monitoring the employees.”

“We're going to regulate the distribution of fuel. I repeat, there's enough fuel, it's important this is known. We have enough reserves. We're trying not to distribute the reserve as it was done previously, we're opening the taps but in a controlled manner because what happened was that they kept the taps open and (…) although the theft was proven, instead of closing the taps, they kept them open,” he said.

He emphasized that his team is working on fixing the issue.

The President said that 4,000 soldiers would take part in security at Pemex installations around the country, including its refinery in Salamanca.

Pemex said on Saturday that it is “preferring the use of safer means of transport, which means changes in the logistics for delivery to service stations,” leading to delays in the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato, Queretaro, and Tamaulipas.

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

A 2017 study commissioned by the National Energy Regulator found that thieves, between 2009 and 2016, had tapped pipelines roughly every 1.4 kilometers along Pemex’s approximately 14,000 km pipeline network.

The fuel shortage has affected nine states, causing panic buying among citizens in Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Querétaro, State of México, Tamaulipas, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Oaxaca.

On Tuesday, Mexico City also presented fuel shortage in some gas stations.

“We're asking users not to make panic purchases because the supply will be back to normal soon,” said the government through a statement.


Fuel theft, a burden for Mexico

In his final report, Pemex's former director, Carlos Treviño acknowledged the budget issues to guarantee the safety of the facilities
Fuel theft, a burden for MexicoFuel theft, a burden for Mexico


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