In the war between authorities and pipeline thieves there is a clear winner, and it’s not the arm of the law.
In fact, there seems to be no war given that despite a record number of investigations into pipeline theft last year, not a single arrest was made.
The federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) opened 2,795 preliminary investigations into pipeline taps, the largest number in recent years.
In comparison, there were only 85 preliminary investigations filed in 2016, and 341 in 2015. Yet there were some arrests made in those years.
In 2015, the 341 investigations resulted in the arrest of 401 alleged huachicoleros, or fuel thieves.
But it was downhill from there: only 36 arrests were made in 2016 and then zero last year.
Accompanying the record number of investigations was a record number of pipeline taps —10,363.
Pemex invested US $282 million in 2014 in a detection system called SCADA to monitor pipeline pressure and signal when fuel was being tapped.
Yet the thefts have continued to multiply: thefts have soared 182% since that year.
A federal deputy from Guanajuato says criminal gangs earn close to 21 billion pesos (about US $1.14 billion) in profits from pipeline tapping.
In response, Miguel Ángel Salim Alle is proposing harsher penalties for fuel theft.
The crime continues to grow year after year because thieves go unpunished, he said.
Source: Reforma (sp)