Ulises Ruiz / AFP / Getty Images
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador says his crackdown on gas thieves in the country works, despite the fact that there are long lines on the pump in several states, halting distribution bottlenecks, and reporting new cases of fuel theft.
has done every day since the gas crisis, now in the second week. López Obrador insists that the sale and distribution of gas will soon stabilize.
"We have not stopped working on the normalization of the service, we are not without gas, everything is moving forward," said the president on Tuesday in his daily press conference. He also reported on new acts he called "sabotage" and drilling in the main gas pipeline of state-owned oil company Pemex late Monday.
Thieves attack gas and diesel pipelines and suck off the fuel being sold on the black market. Much of the theft is committed by organized crime gangs, often with accomplices of Pemex workers and officials. Fuel theft in Mexico has increased dramatically over the years. For 2018 alone, according to government estimates, the loss of Pemex alone in 2018 was $ 3 billion.
The government said it has deployed 5,000 members of the armed forces and federal police to the sentry posts pipelines and Pemex sales offices to reduce the theft. Armed escorts now accompany truckers on their routes.
López Obrador completed six pipelines last month to thwart the thieves and began transporting gasoline to stations, a much safer but slower and more expensive alternative. Within a week, the fuel shortage led to closed stations and long lines across the country.
López Obrador says Pemex will buy 500 more gas forklift trucks to bring the fuel to further stations. He said these purchases would come from the money saved by fighting the theft.
The widespread bottlenecks and the resulting economic losses for businesses have pushed the president on the defensive. Critics say his crackdown on corruption is admirable but spontaneous and poorly planned.
The members of the opposition National Action Party began distributing a video calling the president incompetent and his plan irresponsible.
And Congress legislators were startled when members of the Cabinet did not come to a hearing on the gas crisis.
López Obrador has survived the storm so far. Surveys by various newspapers this week show strong support for his plan to combat gas theft.
The raid is colloquially referred to as huachicol or huachicoleo. The term refers to guacho – which is believed to derive from the Mayan word waach – which means "thief" in parts of Mexico, according to Diccionario de Mexiconismos ,
Until supplies return to normal, López Obrador continues to warn against panic buying and asks for more patience.
It's hard to say how long the patience of the Mexicans will last. Social media is full of images of tortuous rows of cars waiting for gas for hours, as well as videos of outbreaking fighting. There are also tweets of Mexican humor.
In a meme that according to viewers from Venezuela's gas crisis was recycled, a man is on one knee and proposes to his girlfriend. He does not have a ring, but a gallon of gas.
Another shows a Valentine's Day Proposal : bottled regular and high quality pemex gas, available in stylish perfume bottles.
Or for For the Children there is a new toy truck – with Tonka packing. It is a standard pickup with full stolen fuel containers on the back.
And a favorite: a -tweeted image from the side of a polluted old gas tank, which at first glance looks like an old Aztec or Olmec statute. The title reads God of Gasoline.