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Bribery and impunity: the system that favors fuel theft from Pemex in Tabasco

The cyber attack on the Ministry of Defense a few weeks ago has exposed the cooperation of fuel theft groups with authorities and high-level officials, although without many names being revealed. As a whole, it accounts for a system of theft from the state-owned Pemex that has grown hand in hand with actors from all levels of the federal and state government.

The files prepared by the national intelligence forces reveal the surveillance and the attempt to discover the articulation of the fuel theft gangs in the south of the country, with special emphasis on Tabasco and Veracruz, which they have called the . The intelligence work concludes the participation of the National Guard, the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection and the security elements of the state-owned Pemex in the company’s robbery network. The files do not account for any government element that has been detained.

This is the same case in which also , former governor of Tabasco and today openly interested in the presidency, for allegedly providing protection to groups.

The documents reveal bribes from criminal groups –apparently related to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel– of up to 200,000 pesos to allow the free transit of vehicles that go from the south to the center and north of the country loaded with stolen fuel and for a service of Surveillance at fuel collection points. “They provide security at the extraction site and escort vehicles with stolen fuel,” reads one of the documents, referring to elements of the state coordination of the National Guard in Tabasco. The group, identified in the files as an independent hydrocarbon trafficking group, buys gasoline stolen from the state company at prices ranging from two to four pesos and then resells it for 17 pesos. The monitoring includes details – such as names, nicknames and photographs – of the members of the network that would give the bribes, but little is mentioned about the identity of the authorities.

As an example, the monitoring of intercepted communications details the payment of 200,000 pesos to a man identified as ‘Commander Mata’, who, according to the documents, could be a member of the National Guard with a possible location in Cosamaloapan, in Veracruz, a deposit of 100,000 pesos to an element of the Federal Police and payments of 8,000 pesos in some of the collection booths through which the vehicles pass, such as the one located in Totomoxtle, in Papantla and Acayucan, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, also in Veracruz. This same action, but with different locations, would be repeated by groups dedicated to human trafficking from the south of the country or to the illegal sale of wood.

In the same follow-up, the payment to residents of the sites where hydrocarbons are extracted or stored to “keep them controlled” is detailed. In these locations there are regularly clandestine intakes, with trucks and excavators, where up to 150,000 barrels per day are extracted, according to the documents.

Tabasco is still far from the first places with the highest incidence of fuel theft, a list led by Hidalgo and Puebla. But the figures from the Executive Secretariat, also contained in the hundreds of leaked files, show a system that fosters impunity: Tabasco has 8,760 elements between the investigative, state and municipal police. That figure implies 0.5 police officers for every thousand inhabitants. “The location of the pipelines in a large part of the region and the insufficient means to monitor them, allows clandestine taps to be carried out in order to illicitly extract fuel, which has generated confrontations between criminal groups that seek to have control of that illicit activity”, says one of the documents.

The monitoring also reports the negotiation for the release of a member of the network identified as ‘El Bombón’, the leader of one of the cells and apprehended in 2021, for which they request – the documents do not indicate who does it – a payment of one million pesos for his release and 20,000 a week “so as not to be disturbed” after his release. Until the follow-up, which covers until the end of last August, it is not detailed whether or not the action was carried out.

The federal government, according to the files, has continuously followed criminal groups that have added fuel theft to their activities – drug trafficking, extortion, human trafficking. In 2019, as one of the first actions of this six-year term, the catalog of serious crimes was expanded, including fuel theft as one of the list. But the leaked files, described yesterday as a “resounding failure” by the president, have revealed only modest progress in the fight against this crime.

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