Mexico Gasoline Theft Cut by 95%, Pemex Says

(Bloomberg) -- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s fight against gasoline theft has reduced robbery by 95 percent as Mexico shifted fuel transport to trains and trucks, and improved security for pipelines, according to state-owned oil oil producer Petroleos Mexicanos.

Theft this month has declined to a daily average of 4,000 barrels from 81,000 in November, just before Lopez Obrador took office, representing roughly 11 billion pesos ($581 million) worth of fuel not lost to theft, the company said Tuesday. After distribution snags left gas stations across the country facing fuel shortages at the start of the year, supply has been fully restored, according to a presentation from the company.

Mexico Gasoline Theft Cut by 95%, Pemex Says

Pemex is slowly shifting back to supplying gasoline by pipeline in the wake of increased government security, which Lopez Obrador said involved the deployment of 10,000 soldiers, marines and federal police. He predicted the new national guard will bolster that effort.

The gasoline campaign is “one of AMLO’s most successful policies so far," Sebastian de Lara, managing partner of Mexico City-based risk analysis firm Navegacion Politica, said in an interview. "When people are asking him to show results, that’s a positive result right there. It benefits Pemex, but it also benefits all of us.”

Popular Support

Lopez Obrador projected that the value fuel kept out of criminal hands by government efforts to safeguard it could ultimately amount to as much as 50 billion pesos.

Mexico Gasoline Theft Cut by 95%, Pemex Says

The success of the campaign is a boon to Pemex, which has been struggling with the challenges of falling production, $108 billion of debt and high taxes. It’s also one of the first signs that Lopez Obrador’s focus on fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law is having an impact. Analysts have questioned some of his other plans for the industry, including building a new refinery viewed by many analysts as a questionable investment.

Lopez Obrador has enjoyed broad popular support for his gasoline initiative. A poll in January by Reforma showed public backing of 62 percent, with almost three quarters of respondents preferring that the government end gasoline theft even if that effort were to result in shortages for some period of time.

"If it was possible to resolve the fuel theft, we’ll be able to do anything," Lopez Obrador said at his morning news conference at the National Palace, standing alongside Pemex Chief Executive Officer Octavio Romero. "With that spirit, we’re doing well."

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