Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday (Dec. 27) that the government is carrying out a new plan to combat fuel theft, which brought $3.35 billion of financial losses last year to the state-run oil company Pemex.
“With what has been stolen this year, it would be enough to finance 40% of a new refinery,” said Obrador in a webcast. “Three years of fuel theft equals a new refinery.”
Analysts said fuel theft has become a major problem in Mexico since the government unleash control over oil prices in 2017, creating a lucrative black market for drug cartel groups.
Lopez Obrador said he would step up use of the military forces to fight fuel theft and vowed to root out corrupt officials it says are largely responsible for the problem that has caused serious trouble to the whole state.
As part of this new plan, a troop consisting of over 900 army, navy, and military police personnel is being deployed to reinforce security at 58 Pemex facilities liable to fuel theft.
The Mexican military is said to be responsible for overseeing facilities, the dispatch of fuel trucks and pipeline monitoring systems across the country.
The plan also asked 15 government bodies, including enforcement, judicial, executive and tax authorities to join forces to crack down on fuel theft and the purchase of stolen fuel.
The new government also has proposed a constitutional reform to classify fuel theft and the purchase of stolen fuel as a severe crime, Lopez Obrador said.
Fuel theft has grown substantially in recent years, with fuel stolen from Pemex having jumped to 58,200 bpd in 2018 from 26,000 bpd in 2016, said Pemex CEO Octavio Romero Oropeza. There were 2.4 million barrels of gasoline being stolen in November alone, he added.
Moreover, Lopez Obrador said high-level officials within the government and the state oil company are definitely involved in fuel theft.
Since the president took office on December 1, up to 100,000 bpd of crude oil have been stolen.
“It is difficult to sell this volume of stolen gasoline without the complicity of government officials,” Lopez Obrador said. “Only 20% of fuel theft occurs via illegally tapped pipelines, with the majority of the thefts involving government and oil company authorities.”
The government is going to fight the theft “outside and inside” Pemex’s facilities, he added.