Fourteen months after the creation of seven military units dedicated to safeguarding petroleum pipelines from theft there is no sign that they have made any difference.
In March of last year Petróleos Mexicanos either paid for or donated seven facilities at which National Defense (Sedena) and Navy (Semar) officials were to be deployed, where their sole mission was to be the protection of the state oil company’s infrastructure.
The facilities were strategically located in the states of Puebla, Baja California, Sinaloa, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Veracruz.
The Puebla facility, for example, constantly monitors a Pemex storage and dispatch terminal, known as a TAD, where officials can detect minute changes in the pipeline’s pressure caused by leaks or illegal taps, allowing them to respond immediately and investigate.
But in spite of the increased surveillance, the number of illegal taps reported through 2016 and so far this year has continued to rise unabated.
In January and February alone authorities located 125 and 104 taps, respectively, into the Mexico City-Minatitlán pipeline that crosses Puebla. In March, the number jumped to 173.
At the national level more than half of last year’s total pipeline taps were recorded during the first four months of 2017: there were 2,026 taps in all of last year; between January and April there were 1,135.
The Red Triangle municipalities of Tepeaca and Quecholac in Puebla led the way with the most taps so far this year, 80 and 74, respectively.
The Quecholac town of Palmarito was the scene of the violent confrontation between fuel thieves, or huachicoleros, and federal forces earlier this month, where six civilians and four soldiers lost their lives.
Meanwhile, Puebla Governor José Antonio Gali Fayad has announced a second stage of the Zaragoza Shield security program, which has recovered 2.5 million liters of stolen fuel and resulted in the arrest of 450 people.
Public Security Secretary Jesús Morales Rodríguez said 182 state and municipal police, 30 patrol cars and a helicopter have been assigned to the operation, which has a broad security mandate to combat home and vehicle robberies and muggings as well as pipeline theft.
Source: Reforma (sp)