Mexico has broken the pattern of 75 years of nationalist pride to reform its flagging, state-owned oil industry. But as it prepares to develop shale fields along the Gulf Coast and attract foreign investors, another challenge awaits: taming the brutal drug cartels that rule the region and are stealing billions of dollars’ worth of oil from pipelines.
Figures released by Petróleos Mexicanos last week show the gangs are becoming more prolific and sophisticated. So far this year, thieves across Mexico have drilled 2,481 illegal taps into state-owned pipelines. That’s up more than a third from the same period of 2013.
Pemex estimates it’s lost some 7.5 million barrels worth $1.15 billion.
Pemex director Emilio Lozoya calls the trend “worrisome.”