A fuel station is seen out of service due to shortages of fuel in Mexico City. Photo by Sashenka Gutierrrez/EPA-EFE
Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday blamed gasoline shortages in Mexico City on a sabotage of fuel pipelines, but promised distribution will be normalized.
A new stage in fuel theft prevention began Thursday with the military concentrating nearly 1,000 miles of six main pipelines in the country, he said. He said Monday 4,000 military personnel were dispatched to control theft across all installations of state oil company Pemex.
"The gasoline shortage in Mexico City resulted from sabotage of a gasoline pipeline from Tuxpan to Azcapotzalco," he said.
Tuxpan, a Gulf of Mexico port in Veracruz State, receives most imported gasoline. About 95 percent goes to Mexico City, a March 2017 report in El Universal said. Azcapotzalco is 195 miles from Tuxpan.
The pipeline connecting those points was damaged and repaired on Wednesday, but was targeted again by saboteurs later and had to be closed, Lopez Obrador said.
"We are working toward normalizing supplies to Mexico and other states," he said.
There are logistic problems across Pemex installations already affecting individuals and businesses, Reforma reported Thursday. The report said industrial and commercial sectors have started to report losses and some public services have become seriously affected.
The Reforma report showed images of what it said was a 1.5-mile-long queue of fuel trucks waiting to load in the Tula refinery in Hidalgo State in central Mexico. Drivers there reported loading time inside the plant could take 10 additional hours.
The newspaper also quoted Guanajuato State officials saying the Salamanca refinery was experiencing problems with gasoline production due to a lack of an additive for octane.
Earlier this week, the government admitted there were fuel shortages in several states, and asked citizens to help. It was not a problem related to lack of supplies, but rather a result of stricter distribution control to rely more on fuel trucks until pipelines could be secured.
Pemex, which owns six oil refineries, made similar appeals for "understanding and support."
"Pemex calls to avoid panic buying. Our storage and distribution terminals have enough fuel in stock to cover the demands of the population," the company said this week.
"Obrador's leadership seeks to prevent further financial losses for the nation and end corruption."
Lopez Obrador started his presidential term last month, and announced weeks later his government found that corrupt Pemex personnel were keeping pipelines open, making it possible for thieves to drill holes and steal gasoline.
Other reports indicated Pemex decided not to renew licenses to about a hundred service stations that ran out of fuel after controls were imposed.
Gas theft in Mexico is a problem that's been going on for decades involving drug traffickers, criminal bands, fuel station owners and entire communities, a Pemex report said last year.
After a government decision to close pipeline valves after deliveries, fuel theft was cut to a loss of just 19,000 barrels per day on Dec. 25 -- down from 43,000 barrels per day just days earlier, Mexican officials said.