Mexico’s military have taken control over 58 key fuel installations in the country, including refineries, upon orders by new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has vowed to fight corruption and fuel theft within and outside state-run energy company Pemex.
Lopez Obrador unveiled a plan on Thursday to increase the presence of military and the use of the army in fighting rampant fuel theft that has been costing Mexico’s state firm Pemex billions of dollars annually.
According to Pemex’s own estimates, the losses from fuel theft over the past three years have reached US$7.5 billion (147 billion Mexican pesos).
According to Lopez Obrador, authorities are also involved in widespread fuel theft.
“This is the theft of national assets, of public funds, of money that belongs to all Mexicans,” Reuters quoted Lopez Obrador as saying at a regular news conference on Thursday.
On Friday, the Mexican army took control of refineries of Pemex across the country, where unionized workers were blocking the access to some of the sites, UPI reports, citing the Excelsior newspaper.
Mexican media report that three officials at Pemex, suspected of having facilitated fuel theft, had already been arrested for the alleged crimes. The three Pemex officials have been sacked and will be facing criminal charges, Mexico’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said at Lopez Obrador’s news conference on Thursday.
Pemex’s new management are aware of the fact that company employees have been complicit in fuel theft and moved to deal with the problem, Gertz Manero said.
Illegal taps on Mexican fuel pipelines jumped by 45 percent annually between January and October 2018, according to Pemex’s latest report on fuel theft.
Earlier this year, former Pemex chief executive Carlos Alberto Treviño Medina said that fuel theft was expected to cost the state oil company as much as US$1.78 billion (35 billion pesos) in 2018.
Apart from rampant fuel theft, Pemex also has to cope with declining domestic oil production, which hit in October one of the lowest monthly production rates since 1990 when records began.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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