Central and western Mexican states have been experiencing severe fuel shortages not because there’s actually a shortage of fuel, but because the primary fuel pipelines and refineries are being continually tapped by fuel-theft gangs. The government has shut down many of these pipelines, and is resorting to tanker trucks to deliver fuel, which is much slower and has much less capacity, causing the intense fuel shortages.

The states of Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Queretaro are the ones being primarily affected, and it’s making life very difficult for the people living down there. I got an email from a reader named Miguel who lives in one of the affected areas, and here’s how he described the situation:

Not sure if you are aware of this but in central Mexico we are living a real carpocalypse, at least 7 central states have a hard shortage of fuel, complete fuel stations in several cities are completely shut without a drop of neither diesel or gasoline of any grade.

I started to drive like an old lady to maximize gas trying to avoid lines in the working gas stations of about 2hrs and up and thinking of go to other states to fill up, i really feel like in the first MadMax movie when fuel start to be scarce...

All of this is because our president close the distribution lines in an effort to hit the rampant multimillion tampering business (huachicoleo), an use the tanker fleet to fulfill the demand but this proves to be extremely inefficient,

We are on the breach of the complete chaos since emergency services and even airports are impacted, take a look at the news in my country.

He’s absolutely right about the massive scale of the fuel thefts, though it’s even bigger than “multimillion;” one report suggests the fuel thefts cost the Mexican government “$3 billion per year,” and notes that the gangs are so sophisticated that they’ve effectively set up a parallel shadow fuel distribution network.

Officials have even discovered a two-mile-long hose that ferried fuel from a refinery to a remote holding tank, and entire warehouses have been built over sections of pipeline to facilitate tapping and distributing stolen fuel.

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has taken a firm stance against the fuel thefts by shutting down the pipelines, saying (via the Associated Press):

“Let’s see who gets tired first, the fuel thieves or us. We know it is not going to be easy, but we are not going to back down.”

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So far, most of the people getting tired are the citizens of the affected states, who are having to bear the brunt of the lack of fuel.