Poverty and marginalization, the reasons behind fuel theft

In Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, the scenario of the worst tragedy caused by fuel theft, 55% of the population lives in poverty and 7% lives in extreme poverty

Poverty and marginalization, the reasons behind fuel theft
Fuel thieves keep operating even after the Tlahuelilpan explosion - Photo: Jorge Alvarado/EL UNIVERSAL
English 28/01/2019 09:38 Mexico City Editorial Actualizada 09:47

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The places where communities collaborate with organized crime groups who steal fuel are usually marginalized communities with high poverty rates.

In Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, the scenario of the worst tragedy caused by fuel theft, 55% of the population lives in poverty and 7% lives in extreme poverty. According to the Coneval, 61% of the population earns a salary below the poverty line.

In the municipality of Otumba, in the state of Mexico, on Friday, a group of people from Cuautlacingo tried to attack the members of the Defense Ministry when they prevented the civilians from running away from a clandestine fuel tap. Numbers from the Coneval show that 56% of its population lives in poverty.

In Acambay, in the state of Mexico, where dozens of people were seen gathering around a clandestine fuel tap, even before the Tlahuelilpan tragedy, is a municipality with a high marginalization rate. Today, EL UNIVERSAL reveals that in Acambay, everyone knows the fuel thieves and that there are communities where many inhabitants make a living by stealing fuel. “They preferred to take it as a job instead of (working) the fields or other trades,” witnesses said.

Why do large groups of people decide to commit crimes?

Marginalization and poverty are elements that play a role on the commission of crimes. In the absence of opportunities or, at best, before the option of spending their lives in agricultural activities with very poor wages, fuel theft becomes attractive because the pipelines are close to their communities and it implies a clandestine theft that doesn't cause physical or property harm to others.

Another element is impunity. Studies such as the one released by the UDLAP show that in Mexico, impunity in regards to general crimes is 99%, that is, crimes are never punished.
Society learns that high-ranking officials accused of corruption, who aren't investigated and punished, it learns that criminal groups dominate large regions without being bothered by anyone, it learns that neighbors commit crimes and never go to jail. While crimes aren't punished, there will be incentives to take the illegal path.

There are situations that show that criminals practices have permeated the social fabric. There are many reasons but the situation would be quite different if there were developments to reduce poverty and impunity.

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