The people who were stealing fuel from pipelines have now turned their attention to the railroads, the communications manager for the Ferromex and Ferrosur rail systems said this morning.
Lourdes Aranda said in an interview with journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva that train robberies have increased “exponentially” so far this year in the mountainous region on the boundary between the states of Veracruz and Puebla.
She said there have been up to 16 attacks a day on the 35 trains that run daily between Veracruz and Mexico City.
“It’s incredible how it’s grown. It was very quiet there last year.”
The thefts have been reduced on the Veracruz side through joint efforts by the railway and the state government, Aranda said, and most of the incidents are now concentrated in the Puebla municipality of Cañada Morelos.
The thefts are conducted by heavily armed criminals with high-powered weapons, accompanied by local residents, she said. “We’re not prepared to fight against the large numbers of people who arrive with support from armed individuals.”
The former are used as a human shield while the thieves help themselves to appliances, sugar, wine and liquor, cement, tires and more, Aranda said.
She also cited the danger of placing barricades on the tracks to halt the trains, in that they could trigger a derailment or a collision of rail cars carrying chemical products from the refinery city of Coatzacoalcos.
An explosion or chemical spill could result, she said.
A theft earlier this month was described as “the theft of the century” by Puebla poultry farmers who lost nearly 1,000 tonnes of grain.
Dozens of trucks blocked the tracks in broad daylight to stop the Ferrosur train at a point between Esperanza and Cañada Morelos. In three hours the thieves took 900 tonnes of yellow corn.
The area is believed to be under the control of Roberto de los Santos de Jesús, a leader of the huachicoleros, or petroleum thieves.
The head of the Association of Mexican Railroads said last week that increased efforts by security forces to stop petroleum theft have encouraged the thieves to focus on trains instead.