Mexican Gangs Stealing Growing Amounts of Fuel

Mexican crime groups have virtually taken over the pipeline system of Mexico's state oil monopoly, stealing growing amounts of fuel and gaining an important source of new revenue as they fight other gangs and Mexico's government, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing Petroleos Mexicanos.

The problem is not new, but it is expanding at a rapid pace, as the crime groups learn technical expertise that can foil electronic monitoring systems.

The rise in fuel thefts comes as the government struggles to contain an increase in violence linked to organized crime groups, which have expanded operations from traditional drug trafficking to kidnapping, extortion and protection rackets.

Since December 2006, more than 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico, most of it between rival gangs seeking to expand their territory, according to government and newspaper estimates.

The total amount of fuel, including crude oil and gasoline, diesel and liquefied petroleum gas taken during the first four months of the year is slightly greater than the total amount stolen all of last year, Petroleos Mexicanos CEO Juan Jose Suarez Coppel said this week.

During the first four months of this year, these groups stole an estimated $250 million worth of fuel at market prices, Suarez Coppel said. That translates to nearly one million barrels of fuel, according to Pemex, as it is known. Mexico relies on oil sales for about a third of its revenue.

To read more, see The Wall. St. Journal article here.