An anti-fuel theft operation in Guanajuato yesterday triggered a hostile response from residents who attempted to repel security forces with fiery blockades.
Around 200 members of the army, navy and Federal Police carried out an operation in the municipality of Villagrán that resulted in the seizure of at least 24 tanker trucks filled with gasoline, seven trailers and 5,000 liters of stolen fuel, all of which were found on a property in the community of San Salvador Torrecillas.
Angry residents responded to the raid by placing barricades at the entrance to the small town of Santa Rosa de Lima to prevent the security forces from reaching an illegal gas station.
The mask-wearing, stick-wielding residents who, according to municipal police, are complicit with fuel thieves, claimed that the authorities didn’t have a search warrant to enter the property where the stolen fuel and vehicles were seized.
Other residents set up a blockade made of burning tires on the Celaya-Juventino Rosas highway and set at least four vehicles on fire on other roads in order to block access to Villagrán.
In Celaya, which adjoins Villagrán to the east, a group of individuals stopped a bus at around 7:00pm and forced the driver and 10 passengers to get off before they set the vehicle alight.
The same individuals also forced the occupants of a car to get out after which they riddled it with bullets.
Authorities didn’t report any arrests in relation to the anti-fuel theft operation or the response by residents, while local officials said the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel, led by José Antonio “El Marro” Yepez, operates in the Villagrán-Celaya area.
Meanwhile, authorities discovered a tunnel beneath an industrial building in Mexico City that was dug by fuel thieves to place illegal taps on five different pipelines.
Pemex CEO Octavio Romero said taps were found on all five pipelines, which varied in size from eight to 14 inches and carried magna and premium gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.
“Within the property there is a tunnel where we can see five pipelines that transport fuel from Tula [Hidalgo] to Mexico City and México state and we can [also] see five illegal taps,” Romero said in a video posted to Twitter.
Hoses were connected to the taps to transport the fuel to a large parking area where it was presumably loaded into tanker trucks.
While thousands of illegal pipeline taps are detected each year, they are not often found connected to tunnels or in such heavily populated areas.
The owner of the property, located in the northern borough of Azcapotzalco, said he had rented the building to supposed business people but they abandoned it in recent days after failing to pay rent for two months.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that safety authorities and Pemex had indicated that there was no risk to the local population from the illegal taps. She said that nearby properties where there might be a “similar situation” are being reviewed.
No arrests have been made and the whereabouts of the building’s recent tenants is unknown.
The discoveries in Guanajuato and Mexico City come amid a crackdown on fuel theft by the federal government, which has deployed the military to protect petroleum infrastructure and closed some major pipelines.
The latter part of the strategy caused widespread and prolonged gasoline shortages that persist in some states.
Source: Milenio (sp)