Dozens of people were caught on camera Saturday helping themselves to fuel at an illegal pipeline tap in México state, as gasoline shortages continue to frustrate motorists in several parts of the country.
Footage that circulated on social media showed a large group of people frantically filling containers with gasoline in a field next to a highway in Acambay, a municipality around 90 kilometers north of Toluca.
México state is one of more than 10 states affected by gasoline shortages that the federal government has explained are the result of President López Obrador’s decision to close several major petroleum pipelines as part of the strategy to combat fuel theft.
Late Saturday afternoon, the México state Secretariat of Security reported via Twitter that police had attended the site of the illegal tap and were guarding it as they waited for the arrival of personnel from Pemex. No arrests were reported.
A video posted to Twitter by security officials showed a stream of fuel in the field where the pipeline tap occurred which, according to the newspaper El Financiero, was at least one kilometer long.
López Obrador spoke yesterday about the incident and urged people not to “tarnish themselves” by protecting huachicoleros, as fuel thieves are colloquially known.
“They punctured one of the pipelines and told people: ‘[come and] get gasoline, there’s gasoline here,’ and some people were there with buckets, collecting it. I call on people to not play ball with these crooks. Even if they say, ‘there’s gasoline here, make the most of it,’ [I call on people] not to protect these criminals [but] to act with honesty . . .” he said.
“[I urge] he who wants to earn an income to approach the social program coordinators in the state governments. There is information so that work and income can be had without the necessity of . . . stealing. It’s preferable to leave children in poverty than to dishonor them. We have to raise the moral standards of public life in Mexico,” López Obrador added.
Speaking at an event in México state at which he announced higher pensions for senior citizens, the president reiterated his claim that fuel theft costs the government 65 billion pesos (US $3.4 billion) a year.
“That money is now going to be used for the benefit of the people, that’s why I call on all citizens to move forward together. There are inconveniences . . . there are lines at gas stations and people are worried . . . but if you continue to support me, if you have confidence that this will be resolved, between all of us we’re going to feel very satisfied to have put an end to fuel theft,” López Obrador said.
The president told reporters this morning that the pipeline between Tuxpan, Veracruz, and Mexico City, which was repeatedly “sabotaged” last week, resumed service at 11:00pm Friday.
López Obrador said the pipeline, one of the most important in the country, is transporting 170,000 barrels of fuel a day, adding that supply will “soon” return to normal.
Federal security forces, including the military, are now guarding seven pipelines and will be deployed to protect five more, army General Arturo Velázquez said at the president’s daily press conference.
In total, just over 5,000 members of the army, navy and Federal Police have been deployed to anti-fuel theft operations across the country.
Asked whether he feared for his life as a result of implementing the anti-theft strategy, López Obrador responded:
“He who fights for justice has nothing to fear. I’m a human being, I have fears like all human beings but I’m not a coward.”
— Pablo Aguilar (@paguilart) January 13, 2019