The robbery of oil and gasoline—or huachicoleo, as it’s known in Mexico—has become an increasingly prominent issue in oil-producing countries around the world. In recent weeks, the matter has become a headlining topic in Mexico, where newly-inaugurated President Andrés Manuel López Obrador established controversial reforms to begin combating the crime networks that allow for fuel theft, causing widespread gasoline shortage throughout several states. In an incident related to fuel theft and this recent gasoline shortage, over 80 were killed on Friday, January 18 due to a pipeline explosion in the state of Hidalgo. In light of the President’s crackdown on fuel theft and this recent tragedy, it is imperative to understand what exactly huachicoleo is and why it’s such a big problem today.
Over the past few years, Mexico’s financial landscape has been undergoing a painful transformation, largely due to the sudden drop in oil prices seen worldwide. Just ten years ago, 35 percent of the government’s revenue was derived from crude oil production. As of last year, though, this had fallen to 20 percent as prices fell and the Mexican state-owned company Pemex reduced its typical 3.4 million barrel per day (bpd) production rate to around 2.2 million bpd.
"Gobierno o individuo que entrega los recursos naturales a empresas extranjeras, traiciona a la patria." Lázaro Cárdenas, Presidente de México (1934-1940)