Mexican president denounces theft of crude from state oil company

Mexico City, Jan 17 (efe-epa).- President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Thursday that crude oil intended for export was being pilfered from the facilities of state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).

"We have information that someone is vandalizing our platforms in Campeche, and on the coast of Tabasco, and we want to examine everything linked to oil extraction," the leftist leader said during his daily morning press conference.

Most of the oil Mexico that exports is shipped from terminals in the southeastern states of Campeche and Tabasco.

Lopez Obrador linked the newly discovered pilfering from Pemex facilities to the large-scale theft of gasoline and diesel from pipelines, which cost Mexico an estimated $3.4 billion in 2018.

The theft of crude has been accompanied by irregularities in the accounting for exports, he said.

Soon after taking office on Dec. 1, the president ordered Pemex to address the problem of fuel theft.

Pemex adopted a new fuel-distribution strategy that involves delivering gasoline and diesel from refineries and ports to urban distribution centers via tanker trucks rather than pipelines.

The change has caused supply shortages in at least 10 states and Mexico City, forcing the closure of some filling stations and prompting panic buying.

Asked Thursday about continuing fuel shortages, the president said that supplies would soon return to normal, adding that the new tanker trucks Pemex is acquiring would boost fuel distribution capacity by 25 percent.

Lopez Obrador said that in a meeting Wednesday with oil industry executives he encouraged them to expand crude oil production by at least 280,000 additional barrels per day.

Joining the president in front of reporters, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio said that 5,100 soldiers, 977 marines and 2,500 federal police officers had been deployed to secure pipelines.