Mexicans have endured a week of gas shortages while the government takes drastic actions to fight narco fuel thieves.
Several states in the center of the country, including the capital city of Mexico, have seen hundreds of closed service stations and long lines to those left open.
The government of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, has cut the supply of gas in a series of key gas pipelines that transport fuel from the refineries.
The goal is to bring the fight to the "huachicoleros" as fuel thieves are known. Many are affiliated to larger drug cartels, which for years have exploited the pipelines of the state-owned oil company Pemex.
In recent years, fuel theft has become a lucrative business for organized crime, as revenues from traditional sources such as marijuana and opium have declined.
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Pemex claims to have stolen $ 7.6 billion worth of stolen fuel since 2016, with 12,581 surprising surveys on public and private gas pipelines between January and October 2018 – compared to 8,664 in the same period last year.
AMLO's policy was to use trucks and rail cars, often with police escort, rather than pipelines to move fuel across the country.
But the strategy is proving to be less efficient in transporting gas, leaving Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla and Morelos in the face of shortages.
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In the capital, a station visited by Fox News Friday had a row of drivers snaking around the block and waiting for an hour or more to fill up.
Kurt Hungeberg, 48, is a temporary resident of Mexico, originally from Denmark, who works for a pharmaceutical company.
"Obviously it's not smart of us to sit and wait for gas, but the purpose is for people to steal gas from the pipes, and many of AMLO's ideas are good from an ideological point of view, but the way they are It may not be the best way forward, "he told Fox News." The gangs are very powerful in Mexico so it will probably be a fight like in Colombia. [what AMLO is doing to fight the gas thieves] he's going to work.
"I'm just surprised at what we've seen with the exchange rate now – it's suddenly coming back to a normal level so it seems like foreigners are starting to believe a little bit that's not as crazy as people thought # 39. "
The retired Ramon Del Mora of Mexico City added: "I think it's an acceptable measure, but the consequences have not been thought about – they should first have people alerted, as they did with water scarcity, but it's important carry them forward [the fuel thieves]. I think it will cause them some problems but it will not totally defeat them. "
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AMLO has accused former presidents Enrique Peña Nieto, Vicente Calderón and Vicente Fox of turning a blind eye to fuel theft – a claim that all three have denied.
He claims that his policy has already had some success, saving 130 million dollars of fuel that would otherwise have been stolen and allowing engineers to assess the full extent of the damage caused to the pipelines by illegal taps.
But in the "Triángulo Rojo", the lawless Red Triangle region in the state of Puebla famous for its huachicoleros, it was as usual, declared a thief.
Speaking to the newspaper Milenio, the man known only as Alberto, claimed to have learned his work by working for the hyper-violent drug cartel Zetas in the state of Veracruz.
He says that he and his accomplices now go out "at two or three in the morning to avoid it [the police and military] operations ", adding" everything is calm at that moment ".
Alberto claims to be able to fill two 8,000 gallon fuel tanker trucks in just half an hour with just one touch.
Friday in Mexico City, taxi driver Delgado Espiritu Jose Mauricio waited in line for an hour after a two-hour wait at a different station the previous day.
"It's stressful, this is my livelihood and I have no other means of providing for myself, so you can imagine the effect," he told Fox News. "Yesterday I lost two hours of work and today I'm losing again. .
"There are positives and downsides [to what AMLO is doing]. It's ugly like [the fuel shortage] it's affecting us workers. On the other hand it is important to fight corruption and there are many bad people in the country. [AMLO] he is doing things that negatively affect, but they take many more.
"This is more than beautiful words, it is something concrete but has been in power for less than two months and needs to continue to put pressure on the gangs".
Martha Rodriguez had been waiting in line for more than one hour on Friday, something extremely uncomfortable considering that her job was to travel with clients who met capitals on behalf of a bank.
"I do not support what [AMLO] He's doing. All he does is when he wants and how he wants, "said the 43-year-old." It's a good idea [to take on the fuel thieves] but he needed to think before taking him forward as he did, without notification. He needed to give notice so everyone would be ready.
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"They [the fuel thieves] you have to be in prison, but this is too much. In the end I think it will work, but in the meantime it's a big problem for people like me in our everyday life. "