The rising spiral of fuel theft

Huachicoleo, fuel theft, has spread throughout the country, sparking off violence and crime

The rising spiral of fuel theft
Huachicoleros have created a criminal network that includes cartels, authorities, and businesspeople - Photo: File Photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 08/10/2018 09:07 Mexico City Newspaper Leader Actualizada 09:15
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When problems are left unsolved for a long time, they reach a certain point where they are difficult to control and almost impossible to stop.

That's the point where the issue of fuel theft is at. The numbers break its record every day. It hasn't decreased since 2004, it has only increased, but during Peña Nieto's presidency, fuel theft has reached unbelievable numbers.

The number of clandestine connections registered during Vicente Fox's term was 890; during Felipe Calderón's administration, they found 4,865; until July 2018, the total of clandestine connections found during Peña Nieto's administration was 37,477, forty times what was registered during Fox's presidency.

For a long time, it was said that this crime was focused on the “Red Triangle”, in the municipalities of Acajete, Tepeaca, Quecholac, Acatzingo, Tecamachalco, and Palmar de Bravo, in Puebla. Now, the majority of the cases are registered in Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, State of Mexico, and Veracruz, nevertheless, fuel theft has been registered in over 20 states.

After the clash between armed civilians and the army, 18 months ago in Puebla, where 10 people died, including 4 soldiers, it was expected that fuel theft would decrease, as the security cabinet announced a joint effort to “prosecute all the fuel businesspeople who buy and sell stolen fuel in the country.” The facts show that the goal wasn't achieved.

PEMEX points that their technique to detect clandestine connections has improved and now fixes them “faster than before,” but it also acknowledges that criminal groups' capacity to drain pipelines was better than its workers' ability to close them.

Besides the risks and tragedies that fuel theft has sparked, the financial cost for the country is quite high. PEMEX estimates that fuel theft has reached MXN $30,000 million per year; MXN $20,000 million in fuel and the rest has been spent on the reparation of environmental and social damages.

Such persistence and the extent of crime is only possible with the collusion with businesspeople, some authorities, mainly municipal, and criminal bands.

This crime affects different agencies, so while those agencies don't fully commit to fighting this crime, it won't be eradicated. Did we reach a halt? Or on the contrary, will fuel theft increase? The sad reality is that it seems like no one can answer those questions.


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