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The Mexican government is stepping up its efforts to eliminate fuel theft in the country.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has ordered the shutdown of the country’s major fuel pipelines since December last year. López Obrador implemented the policy to combat widespread fuel theft in Mexico and mentioned that the shutdown will continue until more effective security measures against fuel theft have been adopted.
Fuel theft is a growing problem in Mexico since the 1980s. However, cases of fuel theft have rapidly increased in the past few years.
One reason for the increase in theft cases is the government’s crackdown on drugs, which led to drug gangs being backed into a corner. As a result, these gangs resorted to alternative forms of stealing. Since a couple of liters of fuel cost more than the country’s daily minimum wage, gangs steal fuel from pipelines and put what they stole up for sale on the black market.
The theft cases have caused the country to lose an estimate of over $3 billion annually. Based on Reuters’ computations, thieves steal around 150,000 barrels of gasoline daily. According to the government-owned oil corporation Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), its fuel pipeline system has sustained over 12,500 illegal taps from January to October 2018.
To further combat the fuel theft crisis and to support the shutdown of major fuel pipelines, the government used tank trucks to distribute fuel across Mexico.
However, the new method of distribution resulted in a shortage of fuel at hand in the country. The shortage caused long lines in gas stations in Mexico City and nearby states. It also sparked outrage on social media, with the hashtag #DondeHayGasolina (#WhereIsTheGasoline?) becoming a trend on Twitter at one point.