La Explosión en Mexico

On Jan. 19, a gas pipeline in Tlahuelilpan exploded, killing at least 85 people, leaving 58 others hospitalized and a dozen more remain missing.

The explosion followed severe shortages of gasoline in central Mexico after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador launched a major crackdown on fuel theft, ordering pipelines to be closed in a bid to foil criminal activity.

Mexico’s defense secretary Gen. Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters that he sent troops to the scene before the explosion, however, they were forced to retreat as a huge crowd converged on the pipeline. When troops arrived at the scene, there were over 800 people participating in the mass theft.

Pemex Chief Executive Octavio Romero Oropeza told reporters that the facility had been subject to inspection in the past three months.

Jesus Cesar Velazquez, resident of Tlahuelilpan, told the LA Times that many of the residents were tapping gasoline, which was necessary due to lack of work.

Ruben Cruz another resident stated, “the mayor protects huachicol [black-market gasoline] and the authorities have money from “huachicol,” which gives an opportunity to have some money."

Mexico is in the center of a gas crisis, with shortages in every state, where long lines form at gas stations. As a result, “huachicoleros" (criminal gangs) have been siphoning gasoline in order to sell it on the black market.

Obrador has ordered the deployment of "5,000 military and federal police to guard Pemex’s refineries, distribution centers and fuel pipeline."

On Jan. 20, President Obrador told reporters at the press conference:

“We’re not going to conceal anything... Of course, there’s a long history of deceptions, the concealing of truth, and mistrust among the population. We aren’t the same as those who came before.”

He also insisted that Attorney General Alejandro Gertz will manage the investigation into the causes of the explosion. Government officials and the nation’s security forces were responsible for securing the pipeline and the population.

Meanwhile, the Mexican authorities began to process DNA identification, asking families to provide samples that could be matched to the victims.

The relatives of the missing are required to travel to a prosecutor’s office eight miles away from the explosion. They will have to provide full-body color photographs of the missing person in digital format and their ID.

On Jan. 21, Obrador unveiled a community development program aimed at municipalities deeply establishing in fuel theft, where many residents have found work in the illicit industry.

He visited several of these communities to talk about the new development program and request residents to collaborate the fight against corruption.

“We will not stop. We will eradicate this,” Obrador said.