State oil company Pemex has lost an estimated 160 billion pesos (US $7.9 billion) in pipeline thefts during the last seven years, while the practice has become the second most profitable activity for drug cartels.
Just a decade ago, stealing fuel by tapping pipelines was an activity carried out by non-violent gangs that stole and sold locally, said a former director of the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN).
The problem grew “when drug trafficking organizations discovered that fuel theft was a profitable business,” said Guillermo Valdés.
“Violent drug cartels and local fuel thieves merged between 2011 and 2012,” at the same time that authorities started detecting an ever-increasing number of taps.
Pemex data confirmed Valdés’ assessment of the situation: 691 taps were detected in 2010, but one year later the figure shot up to 1,361.
The trend continued and in 2012, 1,635 clandestine taps were identified.
Despite the federal government’s fight against organized crime, continued Valdés, fuel theft kept increasing because while cartel bosses were being apprehended, criminal organizations fragmented instead of disappearing.
“What was left were gangs with experience not only in gasoline theft, but also in violence,” said Valdés, who added that these groups often found collaborators in nearby towns.
This resulted in the massive phenomenon being seen today, he said.
Last year, up until December 27, Pemex recorded 6,159 pipeline taps, a 791% increase over 2010.
In terms of stolen fuel, in 2010 the company lost 1.7 billion liters, a figure that last year totaled 2.3 billion.
Between 2009 and 2016, Pemex lost close to 15 billion liters of the different petroleum products it distributes through its pipeline network.
That’s the equivalent of 250 20,000-liter tanker trucks being stolen every day during that period of time.
The news website Animal Político made a conservative estimate of what those losses represent in pesos, concluding that the parastatal has lost close to 160 billion pesos in stolen fuel since 2009.
That’s as much as the Education Secretariat spent on scientific research and technological development during the same period.
Source: Animal Político (sp)