Two attacks by suspected organized criminal gangs on state oil workers in Mexico in recent days have left two dead and one kidnapped.
The attacks, which occurred in two different parts of the country, highlight the way in which gangs are increasingly targeting Mexico’s state oil company, known by its Spanish acronym PEMEX, as a way of diversifying their criminal portfolios.
Last week, two PEMEX employees were found dead near a company natural gas field in Burgos, Tamaulipas, along the Mexican border with Texas, the Milenio news organization reported.
The two men were beaten to death, authorities told the media, adding that men identifying themselves as Zetas, the feared criminal syndicate that operates in that state, have been extorting money from the company.
Days later, Raul Meza Martinez, an official at PEMEX was kidnapped as he left the company’s facilities in Aguascalientes, the capital of the state that goes by the same name in central Mexico, El Occidental reported. No more information is available on Meza Martinez who is presumably being held for ransom.
Mexican officials say that 16 PEMEX workers were kidnapped last year, a number that many consider vastly below the real number.
Most of the blame is heaped on the Zetas, the former armed wing of the Gulf Cartel that split from their masters and now have cells throughout the country.
However, the increasingly fragmented nature of the large mega-organizations is opening up possibilities for numerous smaller criminal groups to delve into kidnapping and extortion.
Attacks on PEMEX is just one measure of this increased activity. In addition to the kidnappings, authorities say the company is now losing close to $1 billion per year due to theft of oil from its pipelines. The illegal taps, which InSight has mapped, have caused numerous and often deadly explosions.