In Acambay, México state, everyone knows who the petroleum thieves are. At least, that’s what one local politician claims.
Illegal taps on the Tula-Toluca pipeline, which runs through the municipality, are carried out “in broad daylight,” according to councilor Francisco Ángeles.
While he doesn’t accuse Acambay residents of involvement in the illegal fuel theft racket, another councilor does, although the locals themselves deny that to be the case.
Instead, the mainly indigenous Otomí people assert that the crime is committed by gangs that come into the municipality from other states.
In any case, many residents were caught on video helping themselves to free gasoline at a pipeline tap two weeks ago.
Acambay councilor Miguel Ángel Navarrete Gonzále, told the newspaper El Universal that there are at least four communities in the municipality where stolen fuel is stored and sold.
“La Teresa, Conejeras [and] Puentecillas are three of the four [communities] where there are a lot of people who earn their living [tapping pipelines]. They’re from here, there might be one or two who come from elsewhere,” he said.
“Many of [the local residents] decided to take up [petroleum theft] as a job instead of working in the fields or another trade,” Navarrete added.
Nicodermo González Correa, a 74-year-old farmhand, said that the huachicoleros, or fuel thieves, often arrive in the early morning in the fields where he works, through which the Tula-Toluca pipeline also passes.
However, he said that he had never reported the presence of the thieves to authorities because of fear.
“I prefer to cross myself each morning, get on the tractor and hope that a fuel spill won’t be the cause of my death,” González said.
Since the pipeline explosion in Hidalgo on January 18, local residents fear the same could happen in Acambay, claiming that although the military and Federal Police have cordoned off the Toluca-Tula duct, unsecured perforations are still leaking fuel.
Even so, councilor Navarrete said that if free gasoline is on offer again, people won’t hesitate to steal it.
“If they open another tap, 10 or 20 times more people than last time will approach it . . . Even if you told them that 100 people died [in Hidalgo], they’d go again to take the gasoline,” he said.
Source: El Universal (sp)