MEXICO CITY – Mexican security forces seized tanker trucks from a fuel-theft ring in the central state of Guanajuato, the navy secretary said Wednesday.
Elements of the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel were pilfering fuel from a pipeline running through the town of San Salvador Torrecillas, Adm. Jose Rafael Ojeda said during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily press conference.
The gang blocked roads in the area to obstruct the military operation, but the marines managed to push through and seize 33 vehicles.
Ojeda also said that “irregularities” were found in the navigation log and fuel registry of two vessels impounded in the Gulf coast port of Dos Bocas, located in the southeastern state of Tabasco.
Stealing fuel from pipelines belonging to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
News of the Lopez Obrador administration’s battle against a racket that cost Mexico $3.4 billion last year dominated Wednesday’s press briefing, which was cut short as the president was due to receive visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Since his Dec. 1, inauguration, the leftist president has deployed thousands of police and troops to increase the surveillance of pipelines.
Lopez Obrador revealed that authorities were investigating a company suspected of acting as a front for theft from fuel pipelines in Mexico City.
The deputy head of transportation for Pemex Logistica, Juan Francisco Rivera Cavazos, said that the company and security forces have already dealt with five other fuel-theft operations in the capital.
Besides securing the conduits, Pemex has shifted its method for shipping gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport more fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines.
That modification has caused severe supply problems in various states and Mexico City and led to the closing of service stations and panic purchases.
The government announced last week the purchase of 671 additional tanker trucks in a bid to alleviate fuel shortages and Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that Pemex has already hired 1,600 drivers to operate the new vehicles.