Oil and gas thieves are well versed at tapping into Mexico’s network of pipelines and helping themselves. Now they’ve turned to tanker trucks.
Tabasco’s Attorney General, Fernando Valenzuela Pernas, has announced a plan in which Federal Police will guard tankers transporting gas from the petrochemical complex at Pajaritos in Veracruz to southeastern Mexico.
State authorities have reported a recent increase in assaults on tankers transporting gas. One of those may have caused the tanker rollover in Huimanguillo on March 26, which led to an explosion that left at least 20 dead.
Valenzuela Pernas explained that the leading theory in that case is that armed subjects forced the driver to slow down and stop but the truck, carrying 60,000 liters of fuel, rolled when he tried to move on to the shoulder.
When the gasoline began leaking from the tank, local residents swarmed in to recover what they could, but a spark set off an explosion that killed two people instantly and another 18 over the course of more than week.
Ten were injured; many of the victims were children.
For gas thieves, capturing a tanker truck can be lucrative.
Roberto Calderón, president of the Tabasco Gasworkers Union, said that a cargo of 60,000 liters is worth 800,000 pesos, or US $53,000. The lure of that kind of money has led to 20 reported attacks this year, and the state earning a reputation as a trap for tanker drivers.
Federal Police are calling on federal and state employees, especially drivers, to coordinate surveillance operations.
“The next meeting held by Federal Police will be in Palenque, Chiapas, to implement the plan and reinforce gas shipping from Pajaritos to Villahermosa. It is one of our short-term, concrete actions,” said Valenzuela Pernas.
The Attorney General refused to jump to conclusions about whether impunity has played a role, but said the problems “have taken on a dimension that necessitates special attention.”
Tabasco’s Secretary of Economic and Tourism Development (SDET) announced the beginning of a program to install electronic chips in the tankers to allow monitoring.
The chip system, now in its pilot phase, was initiated at the request of the National Association of Cargo Transport (Canacar), and is financed by the Trust for the Economic Development of Tabasco Businesses.
Source: Milenio (sp)