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Soldier stands guard over a stockpile of stolen fuel. Soldier stands guard over a stockpile of stolen fuel.

21 gas stations closed for selling hot fuel

Report summarizes activities in Puebla to combat pipeline theft

Pipeline fuel theft may still be on the rise, but so is the number of gas stations that have been closed for selling stolen fuel.

A report on activities to combat such thefts in Puebla revealed that 21 Pemex stations were ordered closed last year.

The report by the Safe Puebla security coordination group explained that 2,002 operations against huachicoleros, or fuel thieves, were carried out during 2017, resulting in 781 arrests, the seizure of 3,138 vehicles, the disabling of 1,138 illegal pipeline taps and the recovery of six million liters of stolen fuel.

The crackdown expanded its scope in April last year when monitoring of gas stations began in the state’s Red Triangle zone, comprised of the municipalities of Tepeaca, Acatzingo, Quecholac, Palmar de Bravo and Acajete.

The operations were carried out by a joint force of agents from the federal Attorney General’s office, the Secretariat of National Defense, the Secretariat of Finance and the Federal Police and resulted in the closure of the gas stations and the arrests of their operators.

Some of those arrested were mayors of the municipalities where the gas stations were located, including José Isaías Vázquez Reyes of Atzitzintla and Pablo Morales Ugalde of Palmar de Bravo.

Othón “El Cachetes” Muñoz Bravo owned four gas stations and was later identified as a regional huachicolero leader before his arrest last year.

Pemex CEO Carlos Alberto Treviño Medina said that “anyone who has knowledge of or buys or sells stolen fuel without reporting it is harming themselves and the entire population, because stealing from Pemex is stealing from Mexico.”

Effective this year, figures regarding stolen or recovered fuel as well as the location of pipeline taps and other related information is no longer being disclosed.

When the newspaper El Popular filed a freedom of information request with Pemex, it was informed that revealing such information represented a risk for security operations in the state.

Another concern of the oil company was that divulging figures on fuel theft could “scare away” domestic and foreign private investors as well as firms interested in forging strategic alliances with Pemex.

It also said that revealing areas where huachicoleros remain strong could put the public at risk “because the criminals could resort to violence.”

Source: El Popular (sp)

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