Mexico’s fuel theft continues to thrive and has increased undeterred each year since the criminal gangs first started tapping into the fuel pipeline network belong to state-owned Pemex, which crosses largely uninhabited areas of the country, in 2006.
The number of illegal taps increased by 49% from 5,095 in the first half of 2017 to 7,590 in the first half of 2018. The total annual total was last year when Pemex identified 10,363 illegal taps.
The illegal trade is now far more sophisticated having graduated from clandestine storage methods in plastic jerry-cans and makeshift tubs to permanent storage terminals that even oil companies would be jealous of.
Guanajuato, Tamaulipas and Puebla states currently have the largest number of registered illegal taps. Unsurprisingly Guanajuato and Tamaulipas have also seen increased murder rates and widespread violence over the past year.
Incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (a.k.a. AMLO) has, however, yet to reveal and much less define a clear strategy to combat this business that is estimated to result in: annual profits estimated between US$4-US$6 billion for the cartels gangs; and large US$ losses for Pemex. It reportedly lost US$1,600 million in 2017 compared to US$1,027 million in 2016. AMLO has so far only said he would make fuel theft a grave crime, where those who are charged would have no right to conditional liberty with bail.
Incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government announced in February 2015 that it would stop transporting ready to be consumed fuels along its 14,282 kms pipeline network and instead process them at storage terminals in order to deter thieves. That strategy was, however, never implemented and so far fuel theft has not only diversified into other pipeline routes that were previously untouched, but it has allowed gangs to take advantage of the fleeting rule of law and high level of impunity.
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