By KELIN DILLON
Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s government-owned petroleum company, is reportedly on track to have a record-breaking amount of stolen gas in the year 2021, thanks to Mexico’s “huachicoleros,” meaning gas thieves.
Since the official record of gas thefts in the country in 2011, the huachicoleros reportedly upped their efforts 3,108 percent between 2019 and May of 2021.
Pemex’s Institutional System for the Control of Legal Affairs has recorded 1,069 siphoning holes in the company’s pipeline from January to May 2021, which would reach 2,566 total by year’s end if it maintains the same rate, more than 500 higher than in 2020. Most of the reported siphons were found in the Mexican state of Puebla, followed by Tlaxcala and the State of Mexico (Edoméx).
Currently, a reported one in every 10 liters of gas sold in Mexico has been stolen, making the gas black market worth more than $1.4 billion a year.
Experts further reported that criminal groups composed of huachicoleros often “permanently steal gas from Pemex’s main pipeline and from some of its refineries; they threaten operators, steal pipes and transports from private companies, operating a clandestine distribution network, creating shell companies, affecting the population through threats, extortion and kidnappings that put the lives of workers and consumers at risk.”
These groups then sell the stolen product door-to-door at a 30 percent markdown, essentially shutting out the legitimate business from competitive pricing on top of stealing their gas.