Mex­ico de­ploys 4,000 troops, chop­pers against pipe­line theft

Miami Herald - - AMERICAS - As­so­ci­ated Press

Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Fri­day he has or­dered he­li­copters and 4,000 troops to guard the na­tion’s pipe­lines and fuel de­pots in an of­fen­sive against mas­sive fuel theft.

The he­li­copters are watch­ing for or­ga­nized gangs that drill il­le­gal taps into un­der­ground ducts car­ry­ing gaso­line and diesel. Lopez Obrador or­dered key pipe­lines shut down after thefts soared on Dec. 18.

Long lines con­tin­ued at gas sta­tions in Mex­ico City and out­ly­ing states Fri­day as tanker trucks strug­gled to sup­ply fuel nor­mally de­liv­ered through pipe­lines.

Most Mex­i­cans un­der­stood the need to crack down on $3 bil­lion per year in fuel thefts, but pa­tience was wear­ing thin.

“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.”

While Lopez Obrador has pledged “no re­treat” in the of­fen­sive, it was un­clear how long the po­lit­i­cally costly bat­tle could go on.

The head of Mex­ico’s em­ploy­ers’ fed­er­a­tion said eco­nomic losses from fuel short­ages now amount to more than $60 mil­lion be­cause of trans­porta­tion de­lays for goods and work­ers.

Gus­tavo de Hoyos says the emer­gency mea­sure “can­not con­tinue much longer.”

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