Effects of fuel theft crackdown in Mexico growing daily

Posted Jan 12, 2019 by Karen Graham
The government of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has cut off the gas supply in a number of key pipelines transporting fuel from refineries in Mexico, leaving consumers to endure closed gas stations or long lines in the few that are open.
Long lines have formed in Mexico City and several central states as gas stations have closed or limi...
Long lines have formed in Mexico City and several central states as gas stations have closed or limited customers to purchases of 10 liters (about two and a half gallons) because of short supplies
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, late last month launched a sweeping plan to stop rampant fuel theft, the first major move of his young administration against widespread corruption and organized crime.
Many of the "huachicoleros" as the fuel thieves are known, are affiliated with the drug cartels who for years have been tapping into the pipelines of the state-owned oil company, Pemex. According to Fox News, fuel thefts have become a more lucrative business for organized crime since traditional sources of revenue, like marijuana and opium, have declined.
Illegal taps of Pemex pipelines increased by 45 percent in the first 10 months of 2018, according to the company, and the total number of perforations was over 15,000, compared to 8,664 in the same period the previous year. Pemex claims it has had $7.6 billion worth of fuel stolen since 2016.
AMLO's policy in combating the fuel thefts has been to close a number of major fuel pipelines in the country and instead, use trucks and rail cars to transport the fuel, under armed guard. It is not the most efficient way to move fuel and is leaving places like Mexico City, México state, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla, and Morelos facing gas shortages.
Channel News Asia notes that the unintended long lines at gas stations caused by the slowness in delivering fuel may have an impact on the country's economy, as well as possibly damaging the president's popularity if the shortages persist for a long time.
Direct effects of fuel shortage being seen
Some Mexican auto plants are feeling the pinch from the fuel shortage and may end up suspending operations if the government does not act quickly enough, reports Reuters.
Eduardo Solis, the president of the Mexican Auto Industry Association, has called for “urgent attention” from the government to avoid an even bigger crisis. “We need logistics to flow and that’s why, when there are blockages, our operations are put at risk. We are worried because it could lead to the suspension of a plant,” Solis said.
Central de Abasto extends 328 hectares (810 acres)  with more than 2 000 business that sell principa...
Central de Abasto extends 328 hectares (810 acres), with more than 2,000 business that sell principally fruit, vegetables, meat and some processed foods in a main building that covers 85 hectares (210 acres). Image taken in 2017.
Gobierno CDMX (CC0 1.0)
Solis cites the difficulty some workers are having getting to work and then points out that the lack of fuel will also increase the risk of parts not being delivered on time.
Latin America's largest wholesale market, the Central de Abastos in Mexico City, has also been impacted by the fuel shortage. Both deliveries and sales have slowed way down. Generally, as many as 62,000 cars and trucks converge daily to buy and sell fruits, plants and other goods.
However, according to market records, many people are staying at home. "Forty to 50 percent of supply has been affected," said Rafael Perez, 43, the purchasing director for Drinks Depot, a beverages wholesaler. "We are talking about suppliers from Hidalgo, Guerrero, Cuernavaca, Puebla, and Tlaxcala."