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Mexican City for Fuel Thieves | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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State policemen take pictures following the explosion of a petrol pipeline caused by fuel theft, in Acatzingo, Puebla State, on March 7, 2017. photo: JOSE CASTANARES/AFP/Getty Images

London- Along the lettuce and onion fields in Puebla State in central Mexico, a different kind of thieves who steel fuel dominate the area. Locally, they are known as “huachicoleros”. In line with these activities, a local popular culture merged with the “narcocorrido” music emerged to tell about the achievements of drugs cartels.

According to official data, the number of pipeline thefts has unprecedentedly soared from 186 in 2012 to 6,837 in 2016.

State oil Company Pemex said 2,863 operation of illegal oil excavation took place till the end of March.

This situation costs Pemex, which ensures 20% of the country’s revenues huge losses. Since 2010, these thefts have caused over $2.4 billion losses, Pemex executive Carlos Murrieta told AFP.

With the debatable decision taken by the government to liberate fuel prices with the beginning of 2017, selling prices have surged in gas stations, which made the steeling act a more luring choice. Moreover, risks do not prevent thieves from practicing those activities that bring them massive gains.

Those thieves reportedly earn $10,000 for puncturing the pipeline in less than 20 minute, and $8,000 for wielding the pipe that can extract over 4000 liters of fuel.

Children also can earn up to $500 a month for acting as lookouts and notifying the thieves when members of army and police arrive.

Thieves sell the stolen fuel publicly in streets, and sometimes in gas stations. Pemex had closed seven gas stations involved in selling stolen gas on April 18.

Lately, the problem of oil suction led the fuel level to raise up to 15 meters. Residence tried to capture these quantities with their hands, and the authorities took no action.