Sat, Dec 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Mexico to step up use of military to combat fuel theft

Reuters, MEXICO CITY

The Mexican government on Thursday unveiled a plan to step up use of the armed forces to combat fuel theft, vowing to root out corrupt officials it said are largely responsible for a problem that has cost the country billions of US dollars.

The government would fight the theft “outside and inside” state oil firm Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference, adding that authorities were complicit in the bulk of the crimes.

“This is the theft of national assets, of public funds, of money that belongs to all Mexicans,” he said.

Guanajuato Governor Diego Sinhue later on Thursday said that government officials told him the armed forces were “intervening” at Pemex installations around Mexico.

That included facilities in Guanajuato, where Pemex runs a refinery in the city of Salamanca. Fuel theft there has been linked to a surge in violence and killings, he said in a video published by local media.

The operations were conducted in accordance with Lopez Obrador’s order to put an end to fuel theft, Sinhue said.

Criminal gangs have for years used fuel theft as a way to supplement their income, hurting Mexico’s refineries and bleeding money from state coffers.

Speaking alongside the president, Mexican Secretary of National Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval said that the security presence would be increased at key oil installations to better monitor distribution of fuel.

Security forces would also receive additional training for the task, Sandoval said.

Pemex chief executive officer Octavio Romero told the news conference that more than 146 billion pesos (US$7.41 billion) of fuel had been stolen in Mexico since 2016, with theft soaring to new heights this year.

Asked whether the Pemex workers’ union had been involved in the theft of fuel, Lopez Obrador said that there had been reports that the union had been restricting access to parts of the company’s operations.

That issue had been addressed with the union’s leaders and access would not be restricted, he added.

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