A drone flying over Puebla’s Red Triangle region has captured video footage that offers a glimpse of the extent to which pipeline theft has grown.
The unmanned aircraft was sent up by federal forces near the end of February to provide an aerial view of a location near the Puebla-Orizaba highway.
The view is impressive: at least 148 trucks are seen lined up on a road waiting for hours to enter a large fuel supply depot operated by pipeline thieves.
Tanker trucks and others carrying large containers enter the depot, fill up and quickly leave to deliver their product to transportation companies, gas stations and industrial customers taking advantage of fuel at discounted prices.
The video footage does not reveal the source of the stolen petroleum products — most likely gasoline — but the governor of Guanajuato, the No. 2 state for pipeline theft behind first-place Puebla, reckons that employees or ex-employees of the state oil company are very much a part of it.
Miguel Márquez told the Milenio newspaper the problem lies within Pemex because the criminal organizations involved do not have the necessary expertise to do it on their own. But he also blames impunity because, in his words, there is not an effective punishment for the crime.
Last year, 1,309 illegal pipeline taps were discovered in Guanajuato — most of them in Celaya, Guanajuato, Irapuato, León, Salamanca, San Miguel de Allende and Uriangato — a few hundred fewer than the 1,700 found in Puebla.
Pemex boss José Antonio González Anaya responded to Márquez’ claim about his employees’ involvement by agreeing it was possible, and that both senior staff and union workers could be engaged in the practice.
He insisted, however, that Pemex as an institution was not.
González also said pipeline theft was “big business.” The stolen product is not being sold in the street, he said, but to gas stations and some large industrial users.
Mexico’s gasoline market is worth 700 billion pesos (US $37.45 billion) a year, of which the huachicoleros, as the thieves are known, have captured 20 billion, González said.
Source: Milenio (sp)