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President declares sabotage as crackdown on fuel thefts frustrates public

Tankers with gas and diesel backed up at Mexico's ports

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A fuel shortage in Mexico City sparks protest. Photo: Yahoo

A major fuel pipeline that supplies Mexico City remains closed after two ruptures in a single day.

In what the president calls an act of “sabotage,” the pipeline was hit twice in one day.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s offensive against fuel robbers marks his first attempt to tackle entrenched corruption since taking office Dec. 1.

Criminal groups have tapped pipelines and stolen tanker trucks carrying diesel and gasoline for years, costing the government billions of dollars. Officials until now have appeared powerless.

On Friday Lopez Obrador ordered helicopters and 4,000 troops to guard the nation’s pipelines and fuel depots.

“There’s sabotage,” he said. “Let’s see who gets tired first.”

The series of disruptions to the pipeline in recent days had caused shortfalls in supply for Mexico City and surrounding states.

Cars lined up by the dozen at stations throughout the capital on Friday, many before dawn, fearing that the shortages that fanned into the megacity this week from nearby states could persist.

Lopez Obrador later said the military had discovered a 3-km (1.9 mile)-long “hose” that was funneling fuel out of storage tanks from the facility to a secret storage area.

The president urged the pubic’s patience.

“There are a lot of people waiting in lines at gas stations and they’re understandably desperate and tired and upset,” said Lopez Obrador. “But we are asking for people’s understanding. Together, we have to solve this problem for all Mexicans.”

The head of Mexico’s central bank said on Thursday that the economy and inflation rate could rise if these problems persist.

Bottlenecks at Mexico’s main ports now prevent almost 10 million barrels of gasoline and diesel from discharging on schedule, according to Refinitiv Eikon.

On Tuesday, 24 vessels were backed up at ports, while that number has grown to 39 by Friday.

Six tankers loaded with liquefied petroleum gas, used mostly for heating, are also waiting to discharge.

Source: Reuters, Associated Press

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