PACHUCA, HIDALGO.- Mexico’s formerly quiet state of Hidalgo is seeing a rapid rise in violence connected to an increase in oil theft ever since the Lopez Obrador administration began, showing how promised government efforts to stamp out this criminal economy have stalled and proven useless.
The director of public security for the town of Metepec in Hidalgo, Fausto Aparicio Herrera, was kidnapped on November 16 as he reportedly returned from a police operation during which security forces clashed with huachicholeros (oil thieves).
This was the latest episode in an ongoing clash between authorities and huachicoleros.
Since Hidalgo Governor Julio Menchaca Salazar took office in September, he has made reining in oil theft a top priority. At least 125 police investigations into oil theft were opened in his administration’s first month, according to the newspaper Milenio. Additionally, over 156,000 liters of stolen oil were retrieved between early September and early November, according to Hidalgo’s security secretary, Salvador Cruz Neti.
And on November 1, a shootout between alleged huachicoleros reportedly left three dead in the town of Tepatitlán, Hidalgo. This came soon after a police officer died after being beaten by a mob while trying to arrest an alleged huachicol leader in Tulancingo, Hidalgo, according to La Jornada.
Hidalgo currently has the highest rate of fuel theft in Mexico, with 2,675 pipeline taps registered between January and June of this year. At the same time, its homicide rate climbed 28.6% from January to September, according to data from Mexico’s National Security Council (Consejo Nacional de Seguridad – CNS). In 2021, Hidalgo saw 284 killings, with its homicide rate at a five-year low.
The problem is not Hidalgo’s alone. Nationally, Mexico has witnessed a revival in oil theft following a short-lived drop due to the efforts of President López Obrador, who made stamping out huachicol a primary aim during his presidency.
According to the newspaper Excelsior, oil theft rose by 24% between April and October this year. In response, Mexico’s Security Ministry (Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana – SSPC) has increased the number of security force members guarding the country’s 34,000-kilometer pipeline network by 60% to 3,352 troops.