MEXICO CITY – Thieves have been draining Mexican pipelines of fuel, and the government has had enough. To crack down on the thefts, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered transportation of fuel from pipelines to rail caars and tanker trucks, NPR reports.
That shift has triggered major fuel shortages as the new system can’t meet customer demand. Pemex has asked customers not to hoard fuel or panic buy, but long lines at gas stations and empty fuel dispenses has become commonplace. News outlets are reporting that 84% of gas stations have run out of fuel and closed.
López Obrador, who campaigned on ending corruption, said the new measure are curbing fuel thefts. Stealing fuel has long been part of Mexican crime, but recently, organized gangs took over the “business.”
This week, López Obrador announced discovery of a 2-mile-long hose to siphon fuel directly from a refinery, as well as special warehouses built on top of pipelines to access the fuel illegally. The president also pointed out that even bold tactics like those don’t account for the large quantities of fuel stolen annually, attributing the success of the thieves to corrupt officials.
“I ask citizens for understanding and support, because we need to solve this problem together,” said López Obrador, saying he wouldn’t back down. “Let's see who gets tired first: Those who steal the fuel or us.”