MEXICO CITY – A cartel turf battle for control of a lucrative fuel-theft racket has resulted in a surge of homicides in recent months in Guanajuato, which currently ranks as Mexico’s second most violent state.
The Jalisco Nueva Generacion and recently created Santa Rosa de Lima drug cartels are locked in a dispute over control of an illegal fuel market that has become very profitable, security expert Roberto Valladares told EFE on Wednesday.
Blaming what he terms authorities’ negligence, the senior consultant at Mexico City-based public-policy consulting firm Lantia Consultores said this illicit business had been allowed to grow in recent years into a “gigantic” market.
A total of 1,671 homicides were registered in the central state of Guanajuato between January and August of this year, according to Mexico’s National Public Safety System (SNSP).
That figure has turned Guanajuato into the country’s second most violent state after Baja California, where 1,814 homicides were registered over that same period.
The situation in Guanajuato, known for its colorful colonial cities and its annual Cervantes festival, was very different as recently as 2013.
Comparing the first eight months of that year with the same period of 2018, homicides in Guanajuato have skyrocketed 285 percent.
Twenty-one people died in a series of violent incidents on Sept. 20, while last Sunday a businessman was shot and killed near a tourist look-out point in the city of San Miguel de Allende.
Mexican Government Secretary (interior minister) Alfonso Navarrete confirmed that the arrival of criminal gangs fighting over “illicit criminal niches, such as illegal fuel tapping,” has led to a rise in the number of murder victims.
Over the past year, Guanajuato was the state where the largest number of clandestine taps (1,852) were discovered, according to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos’ latest annual report.
That state’s extensive network of pipelines has made it a target for fuel thieves, known locally as “huachicoleros,” who sell their stolen gasoline and diesel on the black market at prices far lower than what customers would pay at gas stations.