The Keys to Understanding the Shortage of Fuel in Mexico

What is happening in Mexico with gasoline? Depleted states, long queues at service stations, an explosion by an illegal take that leaves at least 89 dead…


What is happening in Mexico with gasoline? Depleted states, long queues at service stations, an explosion by an illegal take that leaves at least 89 dead…

Everything has its origin in a war, which has been launched by the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO), since he came to power, on December 1st. It wants to end the theft of hydrocarbons through the pipelines of the state company, Petróleos Mexicanos, Pemex, which generates millions in losses for the company, between 50,000 and 70,000 million Mexican pesos per year (from 2,200 to 3,200 million euros, approximately ).

As promised in the election campaign, upon arrival to the position has reinforced with thousands of agents security in the pipelines and has chosen to move more gasoline with tankers, to avoid holes in the pipes, a change of model that has caused delays , some closures and purchases accelerated by panic.

These are the keys to understanding what is the huachicoleo, as it is popularly called the theft of gasoline, how it is fought and what consequences it has.


Less than two months ago, AMLO announced a new strategy to combat fuel theft, which it highlighted as a national problem. It began with more controls and more surveillance in the factories, to the point of ending up arresting an indeterminate number of officials, who already face criminal charges for this practice.

The huachicoleros, says the BBC, “know the day when the fuel they need moves, and they take advantage of the moment to drill the tubes.” “This information is obtained with the help of Pemex employees, the specialist and authorities agree,” they add.

At least four of the 13 oil pipelines of Petróleos Mexicanos have been closed, so that the thieves do not remove gasoline from the pipelines. In a second phase, the military of Tierra y de la Marina have begun to monitor six refineries and a port terminal and 39 points of storage and distribution, belonging to Pemex.

The theft of fuel, in addition, will be declared a “serious crime” in the ordering, so there will be no possible bond for a detainee and the process he faces will necessarily follow him from prison. It is understood that not only do they cause significant economic damage, but it can also affect the health of the population and the environment.

According to the National Anticorruption Organization (ONEA), he said last October that the huachicoleros are increasingly organized and have stable networks, being one of the most profitable activities in the country.

Does it give results?

According to the initial data of the Government, yes. López Obrador – who every morning gives an ordinary press conference and who has already given several extraordinary ones before this crisis -, the robberies have plummeted: from about a thousand cistern trucks per day to 27, to date January 8.

Until that day, the theft of gasoline worth 2,500 million pesos, some 115 million euros, had been avoided. It is estimated that these data have already doubled, at this point in January.

The strategy of the López Obrador government has been endorsed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Going against an illegal business like fuel theft we believe is obviously the right objective, to do so forcefully and decisively is an important issue because it is about corruption and the rule of law and to generate the right incentives for investment both public and private, “said the department director of the Western Hemisphere, also Mexican Alejandro Werner.

Why is there a crisis, then?

With the closing of the pipelines, the supply to dozens of cities in some important Mexican states was also interrupted, such as Michoacán, Guanajuato, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Querétaro and Tamaulipas. The Employers Confederation of the Mexican Republic (Coparmex) assures, after surveying the businessmen, that they are giving losses by value, at least, of about 60 million euros per week.

Pemex and the Government have reiterated the message that there is no shortage of gasoline in the country, although the delays are undeniable. They repeat that gasoline is arriving, only by other less conventional and slower routes. Until now, most of the fuels were distributed through the 17,000 kilometers of Pemex’s pipelines. The difference between opening the tap and carrying the entire load truck to truck is evident.

In a statement, the petrol company said that:

“Advances in the reestablishment of fuel supply through different routes in the affected states, although there have been delays in the distribution, there is enough product to cover the demand, the actions that were implemented will allow the supply of hydrocarbons normalize as soon as possible. “

Despite this appeal, the Mexicans have left en masse to the service stations, carrying their extra tanks and drums, in case gasoline is really running out. The authorities repeat the message: to put an end to the crime is necessary, it is being done and there is still, despite it, gasoline for everyone. Do not panic.

“How long can it take us [to fix this situation]? It will depend on who gets tired first, those who steal the fuel or us, I can only say that I am perseverant and, as we said, the corruption is over or corruption is over.”

Said the president.

The tragedy

In the middle of these measures, the tragedy. At least 89 people have died and 51 more are still in the explosion in a clandestine hydrocarbon sewer in Tlahuelilpan, in the state of Hidalgo. On Friday afternoon, a group of residents of this municipality burst a hydrocarbon pipeline and began to steal, in a very rudimentary way, gasoline.

After about two hours, and despite the presence of the Army that could do little to control the beating of hundreds of people who came to collect gasoline, there was a strong explosion.