Pemex workers inspect an illegal pipeline tap

As Mexico is rocked by protests against a hike in fuel prices, authorities have highlighted the collusion and corruption facilitating the fuel theft that costs the Mexican state oil company hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

The technical knowledge required to carry out oil thefts by tapping pipelines suggests the collusion of insiders at Petróleos Mexicanos, better known as Pemex, according to General Benjamin Grajeda Regalado, the head of the Gendarmerie division of Mexico's Federal Police.

"The people that do these clandestine siphons certainly must have knowledge of how to bore into the pipes and fix the valves," the general told El Universal.

Grajeda Regalado's allegations were echoed by security expert Martin Íñiguez, who told El Universal the oil theft trade involves the collusion of major organized crime networks, Pemex workers and corrupt local officials.

"There are local mayors who, with their own police officers, protect the members of organized crime groups that carry out this theft. They are associated with people from Pemex, with elements from the municipal, state and federal police and no doubt even the governors themselves," Íñiguez said.

Between 2006 and 2015, 123 Pemex workers and 12 former workers were arrested on charges of fuel theft, according to El Universal. In the past several years, the Mexican government has opened thousands of investigations of oil theft, though relatively few resulted in convictions.

Pemex estimates thieves steal around $1.4 billion of gasoline a year. The most recent figures available suggest the number of clandestine pipeline taps discovered continued to rise in 2016. After leaping from the 1,635 discovered in 2010 to 5,252 in 2015, Pemex recorded in 2,221 in the first five months of 2016.

In an effort to combat the trade, Pemex has recently acquired a raft of new high-tech military monitoring equipment from Israel, reported Milenio.

InSight Crime Analysis

Over the last week, Mexico has plunged into a social crisis after President Enrique Peña Nieto's announcement of a 20 percent rise in fuel prices sparked angry -- and occasionally deadly -- protests across the country.

The announcement lit the fuse of an already heated situation linked to fuel thefts. In December, Mexicans faced widespread fuel shortages, which authorities blamed partially on a sudden increase in fuel theft, the New York Times reported.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Oil Theft

Although Peña Nieto has said the price hike is to bring fuel prices in line with international market value rather than to make up for losses from theft, the ongoing failure to slow the rise of theft and resale of oil only heightens the sense of a government struggling to exert control over a critical natural resource sector.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.