Security operations target fuel-theft Capo
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered on Wednesday his assessment of an operation now underway to capture the suspected leader of a fuel-theft racket in Guanajuato.
“There’s an operation by the Guanajuato government, with backing from the federal government and following the legal procedures (established by) the federal Attorney General’s Office (FGR),” Lopez Obrador said in his morning press conference.
Security forces launched the operation on Monday in a bid to capture Jose Antonio Yepez, alias “El Marro,” who is suspected of leading fuel-theft activities in Guanajuato that have resulted in big losses for state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
To prevent the arrest of the suspected leader of the Santa Rosa de Lima cartel, burning vehicles have been used to block roads in several towns in Guanajuato.
AMLO acknowledged the resistance to the operation but said that “fortunately there has been no loss of human life.”
Lopez Obrador added that residents of the towns affected by the operation had stopped backing the cartel and said the previous fuel-theft cooperation they had provided was due to government neglect.
That vacuum “is filled when people have employment possibilities and wellbeing,” he said.
Local media also reported that the FGR’s offices in Irapuato came under gunfire attack on Wednesday morning, although no victims were reported and no suspects have been arrested.
Stealing fuel from pipelines owned by Pemex and re-selling it on the black market has become a major criminal enterprise in Mexico.
This form of theft cost Mexico some $3.4 billion last year, according to official figures.
After his Dec. 1 inauguration, Lopez Obrador launched an all-out fight against the racket, deploying thousands of police and troops to increase the surveillance of pipelines.
His administration also adopted a change in Pemex’s method for shipping gasoline and diesel from refineries to urban distribution centers, opting to transport more fuel via tanker trucks instead of pipelines.
That modification caused severe supply problems in some states and Mexico City for several days.
Even though gasoline theft is still continuing on a lesser scale, the supply problems have been mostly alleviated.
Lopez Obrador said last month that his administration’s crackdown would enable Pemex to avoid losses from fuel theft totaling some 50 billion pesos ($2.6 billion).
For his part, CEO Octavio Romero said in February that an average of 8,000 barrels of fuel per day had been stolen that month, down sharply from an average of 56,000 bpd stolen in 2018.