President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed Thursday not to retreat in his battle against fuel theft gangs. As gasoline and diesel shortages are mounted in Mexico.
Lopez Obrador blamed sabotage at a key pipeline leading to Mexico City for blocks-long lines at gas stations, which have worn out the patience of many motorists.
"There will be no retreat, not one step backward," Lopez Obrador said. "We are going to confront this problem." He had previously estimated that illegal taps drilled into government pipelines and theft from refineries and distribution depots cost Mexico $3 billion per day.
He called for support from people who live in communities that make money from fuel theft, often by acting as lookouts or protecting thieves against police and military raids.
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"I am calling for the cooperation of all citizens ... We want to do away with this evil, this vice, from the base and with the people," Lopez Obrador said. "I want to ask for their help. If they got some income from participating in illicit activities, that same income they can get from job creation programs, cleanly."
The president, who began a crackdown on fuel thefts after he took office on Dec. 1, did not say who was behind the supposed sabotage of a pipeline that supplies the capital with fuel from the Gulf coast.
"There was sabotage on a fuel duct ... it was repaired, as I said yesterday, service was resumed all day and then they blocked it again," he said.
He said gangs had become so sophisticated they were running their own tank farm in northern Mexico to store stolen fuel.
Lopez Obrador has begun closing leaky pipelines riddled by thousands of illegal taps. But he acknowledged it was harder to detect the illegal taps when pipelines are closed.
Authorities are distributing fuel with tanker trucks, but there aren't enough of them.