Mex­i­cans face long lines dur­ing gaso­line short­age

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION/WORLD - By Pa­trick J. McDon­nell and Ce­cilia Sanchez

MEX­ICO CITY — Amid short­ages of gaso­line and long lines at the pumps, Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thurs­day that cit­i­zens should not panic, and he tried to re­as­sure them that the avail­abil­ity of fuel would soon re­turn to nor­mal.

Mo­torists lined up for blocks to fill their tanks again as more and more gas sta­tions closed be­cause of short­ages that be­gan this week when au­thor­i­ties shut down cer­tain pipe­lines in a con­certed op­er­a­tion to elim­i­nate ram­pant theft of fuel.

The ef­fort is part of a ma­jor anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign by Lopez Obrador, who took of­fice last month vow­ing to do away with in­sti­tu­tional graft — in­clud­ing the pil­fer­ing of gaso­line from state-owned pipe­lines and tanker trucks. Fuel theft is a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar crim­i­nal en­ter­prise in­volv­ing or­ga­nized crime and cor­rupt of­fi­cials.

But the gas short­ages have drawn fierce crit­i­cism from mo­torists, busi­ness lead­ers and op­po­si­tion politi­cians, who say the gov­ern­ment acted with­out se­cur­ing suf­fi­cient al­ter­na­tive distri­bu­tion net­works.

“In some gas sta­tions there are go­ing to be lines,” Lopez Obrador said at a news con­fer­ence. “If there is gaso­line avail­able in au­to­mo­bile tanks, please don’t go to the gas sta­tion in these days be­cause we are in the process of nor­mal­iz­ing the sup­ply.”

But the pres­i­dent would not be pinned down on a timetable as to when fuel sup­plies would re­turn to nor­mal — even as busi­ness lead­ers is­sued warn­ings about the per­ils of pro­longed short­ages.

“We are al­ready hear­ing re­ports of con­cern and dis­quiet from com­pa­nies,” Juan Pablo Cas­tanon, who heads Mex­ico’s main busi­ness cham­ber, told the Mile­nio news out­let. “Some are be­gin­ning to en­vi­sion ... eco­nomic im­pacts.”

The short­ages emerged this week in half a dozen states, in­clud­ing the au­toman­u­fac­tur­ing hub of Gua­na­ju­ato and the Pa­cific state of Jalisco, home to Guadala­jara, the na­tion’s sec­ond-most pop­u­lous city.

By Wed­nes­day, some Mex­ico City gas sta­tions were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing long lines as word of po­ten­tial short­ages spread on so­cial me­dia and mo­torists rushed to fill their tanks.

“I need my car to take my chil­dren to school, to move around this city,” said Martha Trejo Castano, 43, who waited for more than two hours at a sta­tion in the cap­i­tal’s south­ern Santa Cata­rina dis­trict. “And please don’t tell me — as the sup­port­ers of Lopez Obrador sug­gest — to use pub­lic trans­port, be­cause pub­lic trans­port in this city is a ter­ror, with rob­beries, at­tacks on women and the like.”

The gov­ern­ment’s in­sis­tence that there is no gaso­line short­age — just a short­term distri­bu­tion is­sue — has out­raged many here.

“I passed by five gas sta­tions to­day and all were closed,” said Al­fredo Flores Gar­cia, 47, a doc­tor who was also wait­ing for gas in Santa Cata­rina. “If there is no gaso­line; there is a short­age. That is clear.”

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