Mexico anti-fuel theft plan to stem 2.6 billion USD in losses
"We were able to considerably reduce the theft of fuel. If we continue on this path, we could save close to 50 billion pesos, money that belongs to the people and will be returned to the people through benefits of all types," the president said at a press conference.
Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, has made efforts to tackle the pervasive crime, which reached critical proportions in recent years as organized crime groups began to tap into the state-owned gasoline distribution network to siphon off fuel.
Mexican security forces, including members of the army, navy and Federal Police, have been deployed to distribution centers and other parts in the past two months to stop the perforation of pipelines operated by state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
"The theft of fuel has not been completely eradicated. Clandestine tapping continues and we continue with the operation," Lopez Obrador said.
Because some of the regions the pipelines cross are poor, making fuel theft a tempting illicit sideline for locals, the president announced social programs for 94 towns.
Pemex director, Octavio Romero, said fuel theft averaged 56,000 barrels a day last year.
"In November, we reached 81,000 barrels of stolen fuel a day. The first few days of December, it was 74,000, and since we started to control the pipelines, from Dec. 21 to 31, it dropped to 23,000 barrels a day," he said.
"In January, the average was 18,000 barrels a day and so far in February, the average has been 8,000 barrels a day, so there has been a very positive outcome," Romero said.
Minister of Security and Citizen Protection Alfonso Durazo said some 175 people have been charged with fuel theft and another 104 individuals are in preventive custody, and authorities have seized more than 7.8 million liters of stolen fuel and slightly more than 1 million liters of gas.
In addition, officials have frozen 925 million pesos (48 million U.S. dollars) in accounts belonging to 226 suspects, and seized more than 738,000 U.S. dollars, said Santiago Nieto, head of the Finance Ministry's Financial Intelligence Unit.
The Energy Regulation Commission has revoked the operating licenses of a group of service stations involved in the theft of fuel. ■