MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday that security would be tightened along a 1,600-kilometer (995-mile) stretch of state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex’s) pipeline network to prevent fuel theft.
“We’re going to bolster surveillance along 1,600 km of pipelines, where the six main ducts for transporting fuels are located,” Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, said in his morning press conference.
Previously, AMLO’s administration adopted a change in Pemex’s method for distributing gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport the fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines (a frequent target of fuel thieves).
That modification has caused supply problems in at least 10 states and in Mexico City and led to the closure of service stations and panic purchases.
AMLO said Thursday that fuel shortages the day before in Mexico City occurred because a pipeline serving the capital had been “sabotaged” on two occasions.
“We have enough gasoline ... so don’t get desperate,” the president said, thanking service-station owners, citizens and the media for their understanding.
Besides ordering the deployment of 4,000 security forces to monitor pipelines, AMLO also said ordinary citizens have a crucial role to play in preventing fuel theft.
“The pipelines run through ejidos (lands farmed by cooperatives), through small properties, and I’m calling on everyone to support this effort, either by informing (the authorities)” or directly participating in the vigilance efforts, the president said.
Stealing fuel from Pemex-owned pipelines and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
Theft of fuel from pipelines by organized crime groups cost Mexico some $3.4 billion last year, the government says.
During the press conference, AMLO also highlighted the fact that Mexico imports 600,000 barrels per day of the 800,000 bpd of gasoline it consumes, a situation he blamed on neo-liberal (free-market) policies adopted in the Aztec nation in the late 1980s.
The leftist president, who took office in December, added that his government plans to resolve this problem by investing in the country’s internal development.