Mexican oil pipeline erupts in deadly fireball amid attempts to steal fuel; at least 73 killed
The national problem of fuel theft was highlighted in Mexico over the weekend as at least 73 people died as the result of an explosion caused by illegal taps into a pipeline on Friday night. This kind of theft results in over $3 billion USD in losses and per year, and 60,000 barrels of fuel per day, a market that gangs and cartels have been quick to exploit. The country’s new president responded to the growing problem by closing pipelines around the country in a switch to overland truck transportation, a switch that caused massive gasoline shortages around the country. To protect continued pipeline usage, the government has announced a force of 10,000 troops to be deployed around the country. Immediately prior to the explosion, Mexico’s secretary of defense sent troops to the scene where over 800 people had joined in the mass theft. These troops retreated, however, when the size of the crowd caused fears of escalation. This is reportedly typical of these kinds of thefts: individuals use simple tools to force entry into a pipeline, and then gasoline is often carried off by disorganized crowds carrying buckets, creating a large black market for fuel.