By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF
While Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won widespread support in December when he promised to keep the price of gasoline on par with inflation, many Mexicans are now discovering that affordable gas prices do them little good if there is no gas to be bought.
During the last week of December and the first week of January, gasoline shortages were reported in at least 12 states, with the central state of Michoacán, where 90 percent of gas stations in the capital city of Morelia have been forced to close for lack of inventory, suffering the brunt of the problem.
Although the shortages have subsided to certain degree in some states, as of Sunday, Jan. 6, at least seven states – Guanajuato, Jalisco, Puebla, Morelos, Queretaro, the State of Mexico (Edoméx) and Tlaxcala – were still facing severe gasoline shortages, with some drivers reportedly waiting in line for up to five hours to get a ration of 10 liters.
With schools due to open again after the Christmas holiday on Monday, Jan. 7, and many workers returning from extended seasonal vacations on that same say, a lot of Mexicans have voiced concern that they will not be able to get their kids to class or go to work without access to gasoline.
The shortages are due primarily to a newly instated program to stop a massive network of huachicoleros (gasoline thieves), who reportedly were stealing at least 5 million liters a day from the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) oil company, mostly from pipeline thefts.
Pipeline robberies, which often involve organized crime and violent cartels, have cost Pemex billions of dollars in losses in recent years, and during the first eight months of 2018, illegal taps increased by 50 percent compared to the same period in 2017.
In order to stop the huachicoleo (gasoline robberies), AMLO implemented the Plan Conjunto del Gobierno de la República para Combatir el Robo de Hidrocarburo (Joint Government Plan to Combat the Theft of Hydrocarbons), a dual-pronged program in December to secure the nation’s oil ducts with armed guards and substitute pipeline distribution with the use of secured tankers.
But according to some sources, the cost of transporting gasoline to stations via tankers can be as much as 17 times that of petro ducts, and the process is far slower.
Moreover, tankers are also often hijacked in route.
According to Mexican government figures, in November, there was an average of 1,336 tanker hijackings a day.
By some accounts, AMLO’s program has been successful.
In December, the incidence of tanker hijackings dropped to 580 a day, and during the first four days of January, that figure dropped to just 36 a day.
But for those who are facing gasoline shortages, the concern is real, and some drivers are resorting to stashing gasoline reserves.
In the meantime, President López Obrador has called on the Mexican people to “be patient” and to not buy illicit gasoline.
Pemex has also announced that it will increase its distribution by as much as 20 percent this month in order to meet growing demand.
The AMLO administration has said that the issue will be resolved in the “near future,”