It was February 2015 when Alberto Arredondo, a pump technician at a major oil refinery in Central Mexico’s Salamanca, got a first call from the Michoacán Family drug cartel. Initially, Arredondo tried to avoid the calls from the cartel. But he got repeated calls seeking information about when the next load of fuel would be pumped and through which network of pipelines.
In 2016, Arredondo was abducted and driven to an unknown ranch where he was tortured to disclose valuable information about the fuel consignments. In yet another horrible incident in the same year, Arredondo was stabbed severely that surgeons had to remove his gall bladder. Fearing for his life, he went to Canada, seeking asylum in December 2016. “I knew that this was never going to end,” he said.
As the Mexican energy market is gearing up to woo private investors and technical experts in the nation’s petroleum industry, fuel theft is increasingly on its way to become one of the most high-priority economic as well as security threats. In recent years, the tough stand taken by the Mexican government to dismantle the drug business has pushed many narco kingpins to explore new lucrative sources of income. “Fuel theft is more lucrative than drug trafficking because there is less risk,” explained Georgina Trujillo, a ruling party congresswoman heading the lower house energy commission. Trujillo believes more and more cartels are ditching drugs for oils because they don’t need to undertake the risks of crossing the border while a profitable market exists within.
Now, Mexican drug cartels are tapping into state-owned pipelines to steal phenomenal amounts of oil, leading to a yearly blow of $1 billion in revenue to the state coffers. Terrorizing workers in oil refineries and posing hurdles to deter private investment to revive the industry are some of the ways in which drug lords exercise control over the Mexico’s oil industry.
Drug-cartels-turned-fuel-thieves are a major reason to worry in Mexico. Although fuel theft is not something unheard of in the country, drug cartels are taking the crime to dangerously new levels, which is making them even more powerful. State oil firm Pemex is currently facing great threat from criminal gangs. Between 2011 and 2016, the number of illegal taps discovered on pipelines across country has risen fivefold.
Drug trafficking is rampant along U.S.-Mexico border
Mexican cartels make huge profits of billions of dollars each year by smuggling drugs and other controlled substances into the U.S. via the border states of California and Arizona, which are used both for selling within the states as well as for hoarding in the numerous stash houses for distribution nationwide. There is no doubt that the proximity to the Mexican borders in the Southwest and extensive networks of interstate highways connecting different parts of the U.S., California and Arizona have been transformed into principal gateways through which drugs like cocaine and heroin flow to other parts of the country.
However, addiction to harmful substances can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is grappling with substance use disorder (SUD), he/she should immediately seek professional assistance from a reputed drug addiction treatment center. Remember that SUDs can have life-threatening consequences, if left untreated.
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