ACAMBAY, Mexico — Mexico’s president announced a series of social programmes on Tuesday aimed at developing poor areas where fuel theft has become a booming industry, after a pipeline tap gone wrong killed 93 people.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who blames poverty for the thriving black market in stolen gasoline, said his government would spend around US$200 million on pensions, small-business loans, a youth employment scheme and other programmes to help 1.7 million people in areas where fuel theft is rampant.
"No Mexican will need to get involved in these activities, because now they will have work and well-being and the government’s support," he said.
The initiative comes after 93 people were killed Friday near the town of Tlahuelilpan, in the central state of Hidalgo, when an illegal pipeline tap that was gushing gasoline exploded.
The blast engulfed hundreds of people in flames as they were collecting the spouting fuel in buckets and jerry cans.
Forty-six more victims were wounded, many with severe burns.
Lopez Obrador, an anti-establishment leftist who swept to office last month promising to fight rampant crime and corruption, made the announcement while visiting the town of Acambay, in Mexico state.
The area is one of those where fuel-theft gangs with ties to Mexico’s powerful drug cartels operate.
Mexico’s government is currently waging a massive crackdown on fuel theft, which cost the country an estimated $3 billion in 2017.
But the strategy has caused backlash, especially when it led to severe gasoline shortages. — AFP