Mexico's Gasoline Thieves Go Full Mad Max As Competing Cartels Declare War On Each Other And The Army

Fuel theft in Mexico used to consist of a few villagers drilling holes in Pemex pipelines and carrying away just enough gasoline to fill their vehicles and maybe a couple extra gallons to sell on the side of the freeway.  But as The Columbian notes, illegally tapping into pipelines and stealing gas from Mexico's state-owned oil company has morphed into a very well organized criminal enterprise, run by well-armed regional cartels and supported by distribution on a commercial scale to factories and petrol stations.

Heavy arms and violence seen in Tuesday’s confrontation in Puebla state reflect its growth into a billion-dollar business that supplies not just the people selling gas on the sides of highways — called “huachicoleros” — but factories and gasoline station chains.


It has become an industrial-scale operation, involving a string of villages and hamlets along pipeline routes, not just in Puebla, but in Guanajuato, Veracruz, Tamaulipas and other Mexican states. The government says more than 6,000 illegal pipeline taps were found in 2016 and officials have been detecting an average of about 20 taps a day this year.


“Of all the fuel that is stolen, only 10 percent is sold to the public” by roadside vendors, said Jesus Morales, the top police official in Puebla state. “The other 90 percent goes to big business groups, to gas stations, factories.”

Meanwhile, the collection and distribution of stolen fuel has become every bit as barbaric as the drug trade with local villagers being given quotas by organized cartels and then suffering brutal consequences when those quotas aren't met.

As the stakes have risen, fuel theft has become a blood industry.


In early July, nine people were killed, including five men whose bodies were burned, in a dispute between fuel thieves in the town of Huehuetlan in Puebla state. Morales said the killings involved a gang of distributors trying to collect from local vendors who were unable to meet their sales quotas because of police raids.


“They committed this barbarous act as a gesture of anger,” said Morales, who claimed that vendors have recently raised the price of stolen fuel to near that of legitimate gasoline — it used to be half as much — because their supplies are being cut off.


As the police officers waited near the cornfield in Puebla, they saw a huge column of smoke rise into the sky after a clandestine warehouse of stolen fuel went up in flames about two miles down the road.


Authorities couldn’t go into the area to fight the blaze because they risked a confrontation with villagers.


“They don’t even let the fire department enter,” Assistant Public Safety Secretary Jose Tlachi said. “They usually try to put the fires out themselves.”


Pemex workers and local villagers paint a surreal scene of the carnage left in the wake of this relatively nascent criminal enterprise which includes 1,000's of abandoned "Max Max-style" vehicles and gasoline literally flooding entire fields after pipeline taps are drilled and then simply abandoned once tanks have been filled.

A former soldier carrying an AR-15 and extra clips who was patrolling the pipeline for Pemex said the police officers had earlier been attacked by three armored trucks, explaining their reluctance to confront the thieves a second time.


“You can tell they are armored by the weight of the vehicles. They are better-armed than we are,” he said.


The battle against the fuel thieves has left a strange “huachicolero” landscape east of Mexico City. Fields are littered with leaking illegal taps, abandoned fuel tanks and Mad Max-style vehicles whose interiors have been ripped out to hold thousand-liter tanks. Fires from stolen fuel are common.


The vehicles the gangs use are usually stolen and abandoned after a few trips. Over 1,700 of such vehicles have been seized in the last two months.

Meanwhile, just like with the drug cartels, local police forces are finding themselves outgunned by the thieves who have the benefit of better weapons and armored vehicles.

The police officers gripped their assault rifles tightly as they stared at the men filling plastic tanks and loading them onto a dozen pickup trucks in a cornfield in central Mexico. Even though a crime was being committed in front of them, the officers said it was too dangerous to move in.


They had to wait until the army arrived to advance because the suspects were better-armed than they were and an earlier attempt to arrest them had been repelled by gunfire, officials said.


“In the morning there were 40 trucks loading,” said Francisco, a security employee with the state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, who asked that his last name not be used for safety reasons. “We saw them loading, we went in, and they started shooting at us. The criminals had an armored car.”

Of course, gas thieving skyrocketed in Mexico earlier this year after President Pena Nieto decided to remove federal subsidies and hike prices a little over 20%, a move intended to offset budget deficits.  In hindsight, the price hike has cost the state-owned oil company, Pemex, at least $1 billion worth of stolen fuel and launched a brand new cartel war...probably not the expected outcome.


bytebank Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:30 Permalink

That is how societies collapse. Attacks on infrastructure show the contempt for the common good and the MadMax mentality.

Same happened in the US when copper prices went sky high and electric cables were being stolen.

Breakdown will be a lot faster then anyone imagined.

Victorio bytebank Sat, 07/15/2017 - 00:59 Permalink

That is how societies collapse. The relentless and ever increasing draw of the parasitic corporate/government entity becomes too much for common people to bear and the MadMax mentality ensues. Its just too bad that people don't have the wherewithall to realize the cause of the societal disease and adress the source. Same happened in the US when copper prices went sky high and electric cables were being stolen. Breakdown will be a lot faster then anyone imagined.

In reply to by bytebank

Stan522 Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:37 Permalink

Once lived near the border in San Diego County..... Used to go to Mexico in my early life..... I moved out of kalifornia two weeks ago and haven't been to Mexico in decades....

Ms No Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:38 Permalink

I have talked to a two different couples that live down there most of the year and have for a long time.  Things are going from bad to worse and people are starting to have to leave more areas that used to be safe.  The US funded cartels have completely screwed that country and it's probably a matter of years before it ends up serious Mad Max, like Venezuela.  Really poor fishing villages seem to be doing okay for now but only because they don't have much to steal. The CIA thanks you for your tax dollars, contributions to sex trafficking and heroin purchases.  We will likely have waves of migrants just like Europe is getting as Mexico continues to degrade.  Nobody seems to give a shit...  Yeah Trump, the mandarin nothing burger. 

Stan522 Ms No Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:46 Permalink

Next door neighbor has a mom and step father who signed a longterm lease for a home in Puerto Nuevo..... They had some work done on it by the locals... Shortly after the work was complete (sound system, stereo equipment, HDTV, etc... A bunch of masked men with AK 47'S showed up and hog tied them and cleaned them out of all their hardware and everything else of value. Fucking stupid people.... Too trusting.

In reply to by Ms No

Mr. Universe Stan522 Fri, 07/14/2017 - 21:05 Permalink

Are these part of the same family that does the same work here in California Norte? You betcha, they have no regard for the law. You hear all the time about getting work done or a delivery and a few days later, it's gone. Mostly they wait until you leave the house, but not always, home invasion tends to be more the Asian gangs, of which there is no shortage of either. It's almost bars on the windows time around here, just like south of the border.

In reply to by Stan522

TBT or not TBT Mr. Universe Fri, 07/14/2017 - 21:20 Permalink

It was like that already 30 years ago in South France.   Friends and colleagues there had bars across windows scarring gorgeous views, and didn't buy hifi stuff or anything easily fenced.    It's cultural marxism at work in part(can't punish the downtrodden for relocating wealth away from the winners) and lack of rights to defend one's property and person.    California is headed that way.  

In reply to by Mr. Universe

Ms No TBT or not TBT Fri, 07/14/2017 - 21:41 Permalink

I didn't downvote but, that wont solve it if they completely decimate our inner economy.  Desperate white people will be dangerous too.  Poverty brings danger and they are bringing us a whole lot of poverty with their Marxism, money printing, slave labor and outsourcing.  Of course, the CIA also has everything to do with Mexico falling to cartels.  They have been arming them all along.  Isn't it funny how we have to go to war in Syria, Iraq, etc., because of US backed terror and yet Mexico is falling right next door?  Nobody ever said a word.  It's unbelievable.  When Mexico falls people will be made to care though, you can count on that.

In reply to by TBT or not TBT

Ms No TBT or not TBT Sat, 07/15/2017 - 02:13 Permalink

Mexico has not always been fallen.  My Dad toured around all over in an RV there for decades.  They stopped going before he died.  Teenagers have not always been being put in barrels of acid because they wont join the cartels.  This argument that things "have been atrocious shitty many centuries longer" is pushed on the population as propaganda anytime mass murder is taking place.We hear that about the Indian wars 'they were already torturing and killing eachother anyway'.  We hear this constantly about Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, the whole ME and now Mexico.  It is not true that millions have always been dying in the ME.  They are intentionally destabilizing the entire ME and I promise you that we will all notice the difference if they succeed.  We are already noticing the difference and remember we didn't have any terrorism in the 90s.  They do that to make people think that things have always been that way so nobody will give a shit.

In reply to by TBT or not TBT

slyder wood Ms No Sat, 07/15/2017 - 13:19 Permalink

The OP mentions "culture matters". That where the incompatibility exists. Mexican culture is rife with superstition, Latino machismo, violence, thievery and corruption. It's in their mestizo DNA probably from the mix of indo (thieves) and euro (thieves). They portray themselves as a festive, colorful, family-oriented, hard-working culture but if you grew up with them you'd realize its horseshit and a facade. Their domestic violence, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse is far above anglos. The myth of Latino family values is more (((Marxist))) propaganda. BTW, most Indians died of disease, probably upwards of 80%.

In reply to by Ms No

Ms No frank further Fri, 07/14/2017 - 22:35 Permalink

He has the ability to address the entire nation.  He can get on the horn tomorrow and inform the entire population that bankers took over this nation and are hell-bent on WWIII.  He can inform them that our job market is being destroyed intentionally, they are behind ISIS and they are poisoning us with GMO.  He can call a call to arms to route out the beast.  He wont though...  

In reply to by frank further

Twee Surgeon Korprit_Phlunkie Fri, 07/14/2017 - 20:49 Permalink

We really should declare war on Mexico, Their Government approved silent invasion has been going on for decades and that Nation is fully corrupt.But then I think about what is happening North of the Border and all I see is Total corruption. I think I might just run off into the Forest and live with the Penguins.None of this shit makes sense anymore.

In reply to by Korprit_Phlunkie