Central Mexico officials reported on Tuesday the discovery of nine men’s bodies in cars close to a fuel pipeline.
They’re still figuring out what led to these deaths, but it looks like it might be linked to fuel theft. In Mexico, there’s a big issue with gangs swiping gas, diesel, and natural gas from state pipelines.
The police chief of San Juan del Rio in Queretaro, Ángel Rangel Nieves, mentioned finding the bodies in two vehicles parked by the pipeline, not far from Mexico City. These cars had plates from Hidalgo, a state known for its fuel theft rings.
Since President Andrés Manuel López Obrador started his term in December 2018, he’s been trying hard to stop fuel theft. He even sent thousands of soldiers to watch over the pipelines, but there’s still a ton of illegal tapping going on every year.
In 2023, around 5,600 unlawful taps were found across the country. This number dropped from over 7,000 in 2022, but it’s pretty much the same as when López Obrador first became president.
The government’s been tough on the open selling of stolen fuel and even managed to cut down the amount for a bit. You often see stolen fuels being hawked right by the roadside and sometimes even at regular gas stations.
The state-owned oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, saw its losses from fuel theft drop to about $275 million each year in 2019 and 2020. But since then, things have gotten worse, with losses shooting up to more than $1.1 billion in 2022.
Politicians point out that this fuel fight is also affecting the U.S. Back in October, it’s said that cartel members made gas truck drivers spill their cargo in Matamoros, a town just south of Brownsville, Texas.
Last month, U.S. Representative Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat from Brownsville, wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai about the reported cartel attack.
In his letter, Gonzalez said, “This brazen criminal act severely undermines longstanding trade agreements which are vital for the economic growth of communities along the border,”
The illegal tapping of pipelines leads to gang fights and is dangerous for people living nearby. To win over locals, the thieves often leave the taps running.
Back on January 18, 2019, there was a big explosion at a pipeline in Hidalgo state that had been tapped illegally. Sadly, at least 134 people died. This happened in the town of Tlahuelilpan while people were gathering up gasoline that was leaking out.
In 2018, the Mexican military and police caught a guy who they think was running a gang that stole fuel. Get this: he had a tiger “watching” his house!
AFP helped out with this news report.