Tapping pipelines and stealing the fuel in Puebla’s Red Triangle region is controlled by the Zetas and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) crime gangs, say Pemex and government officials.
According to Pemex sources quoted by the newspaper Reforma, small bands of huachicoleros, or petroleum thieves, have segregated and focused on communities in the municipalities of Tepeaca, Acatzingo, Quecholac, Palmar de Bravo and Acajete.
The Red Triangle sees such a high incidence of fuel theft because of the large number of gasoline pipelines crossing it from the Gulf of Mexico to the central states of the country.
A Pemex official told Reforma on condition of anonymity that most of the thieves are Zetas and the confrontations witnessed in recent months are part of a turf war for total control of the region and the stolen gasoline black market.
He said members of Los Zetas and the CJNG train people living in the Red Triangle municipalities in pipeline tapping and fuel distribution.
One of the local leaders in pipeline theft is known only by his nickname, El Bukanas. A former construction worker and farmer, he now controls the activity in Palmar de Bravo and has been tied to instances of kidnapping and homicide.
After a massive crackdown by federal and state forces last March, El Bukanas is believed to have fled to the neighboring state of Veracruz.
Another identified local leader bears the moniker El Toñín, singled out for being the main instigator of the confrontation between huachicoleros, as pipeline thieves are called, and the Mexican Army 10 days ago in Quecholac, where six civilians and four soldiers died.