The theft of fuel from Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), which has caused the first major crisis of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is a historical problem caused by corruption, impunity and the tentacles of drug trafficking.
According to the journalist Ana Lilia Pérez, who for twenty years has studied the oil company, illegal fuel removal began in the 80s of the 20th century as an "ant steal" by Pemex workers in terminals of storage and refineries.
"The oil employee had the logic that if the high commandos stole, they could also steal," journalist Ana Lilia Pérez said in an interview with Efe today, who in 2011 dealt with the problem in his book "The black cartel. organized crime has seized Pemex. "
Perez says that for decades Pemex – created in 1938 with the nationalization of oil – was used by its directors as an inexhaustible source of money spent on personal luxuries, which generated a chain effect to other employees.
The problem was growing and at the end of the nineties, hydrocarbon was practically removed from the platforms, a theft that was officially explained as "natural loss due to evaporation".
In the administration of Vicente Fox (2000-2006), the theft of hydrocarbons was linked to organized crime, and the problem continued with the next government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), despite being "perfectly identified".
The 'modus operandi' described by the journalist demonstrates the high levels of corruption in Mexico.
In the northern zone and the Gulf of Mexico, cartels as relevant as Los Zetas and El Golfo formed an alliance -called La Compañía- to steal gas condensate throughout the entire Burgos Basin.
"It was a big oil business with the connivance of Pemex employees," said the expert, who said that many employees worked voluntarily for drug trafficking, but many others were also threatened.
To the drilling of pipelines and the subtraction of petroleum – the "milking", as it is known in Mexico – a whole parallel infrastructure was added. Organized crime even came to install their own pipelines that connected with the United States.
"There were all the warning signs, the criminal activity grew in the corporate offices and in the areas of operation, and it continued operating and strengthening," the journalist explained.
Thus, in addition to northeastern Mexico, looting extended to many more states, such as Guanajuato.
"The level of looting is spreading," said the journalist, adding to this a growing money laundering and the creation, de facto, of a "parallel criminal enterprise."
The arrival of Lopez Obrador to the Presidency on December 1 has been a frontal combat to this huge theft, which in 2018 led to losses for the company of 65,000 million pesos (3,435 million dollars).
For this purpose, surveillance has been reinforced in pipelines with more than 8,000 servicemen and the model of Pemex supply has been changed to gas stations, moving the hydrocarbon by pipe (tanker) instead of by pipes, and causing shortage of gasoline in at least ten states, including Mexico City.
"For the first time, it was recognized that the problem of corruption began from within," said the specialist, warning that the president has "uncovered a mousetrap."
The journalist, winner of the National Prize of Journalism of the Citizen Council (2010), among other recognitions, considered that solving this problem requires a "multidisciplinary and very well coordinated strategy".
"I think you have to freeze the accounts (of employees investigated.) It's basic," he said.
To this great crisis is added Pemex problems such as the fall of production, budget cuts or other cases of corruption involving senior managers such as former Director General Emilio Lozoya (2012-2016), related to the Odebrecht scandal.
"These are two big problems: white collar crimes, which have been committed for years by high-level officials, and the issue of fuel theft." There is also the problem of the oil union, which has collected many resources from Pemex without much transparency ", said the journalist, exiled two years to Germany for threats related to her journalistic work.