A high ranking Federal Police official says the continued tapping of Pemex’s fuel pipelines can only happen with the participation of employees within the oil company.
“The people who are illegally tapping must have the knowledge necessary to drill the pipes and install the valves,” Benjamín Grajeda Regalado, head of the National Gendarmerie, told the newspaper El Universal.
Official data helps support the Gendarmerie chief’s claim: between 2006 and 2015, 123 Pemex employees and 12 ex-employees were arrested for collusion in the theft of fuel.
Grajeda is proud of the results obtained by the Gendarmerie in terms of recovered fuel: “During this administration we’ve retrieved over 30.4 million liters of fuel.”
But that success has not brought a lot of arrests. More often than not the thieves have fled by the time police arrive and all they have to show for their efforts is recovered petroleum products.
A report by the Attorney General’s office says that 2,616 people were arrested for crimes related to the theft of hydrocarbons throughout the country between January 2010 and April 2016.
Other reports indicate that an average of 23,500 barrels of fuel — magna and premium gasolines and diesel — are stolen each year, representing earnings of up to 21 billion pesos (US $983 million) lost to organized crime groups.
The last five years have seen a steady and pronounced increase in the number of illegal taps: in 2012 the total reported was 1,635; by 2015 that figure had leapt to 5,252.
According to the most recent data made available by Pemex, 2,221 illegal taps were detected in the states of Guanajuato, Puebla, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and the State of México during the first five months of 2016.
The successful theft of fuel cannot be explained by the collaboration of Pemex staff alone, says a researcher: government officials from municipal, state and federal levels also collaborate with some of the biggest organized crime groups in Mexico, such as Los Zetas, the Caballeros Templarios, the Gulf Cartel and the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel.
Martín Íñiguez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who specializes in national security issues, told El Universal that the steady growth of fuel theft started during the war on drugs declared during the administration of ex-president Felipe Calderón.
At that point, drug cartels began looking for other sources of income, said Íñiguez. They discovered oil and that they could steal it with the collaboration of Pemex personnel and local authorities.
“There are mayors that protect members of criminal organizations with their own municipal police departments. They are also associated with people from Pemex, officials from municipal, state and federal police departments and, I wouldn’t doubt, with the governors themselves,” said the researcher.
Fuel theft has become the third most profitable activity for criminal organizations, after trafficking in drugs and people, Íñiguez said.
The greatest number of pipeline taps detected during the current federal administration have been found in Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Guanajuato, Colima, Coahuila and Tamaulipas.
Source: El Universal (sp)