Feb 4, 2019
More than 115 people burned to death in Mexico when gasoline they were stealing from a pipeline caught fire.
Gasoline thefts from pipelines are common in Mexico. According to the Mexican president, 3 billion dollars a year in fuel is stolen from pipelines each year. Everyone knows that breaking into a pipeline is dangerous, but for poor people, the temptation is hard to resist. There are no steady jobs. Prices are very high. So people take the risk in order to make a few bucks. The local priest where people were burned explained: “The people don’t like to steal, it’s not something they enjoy, but they look up and see so much corruption, so much injustice, and they see that their hands are empty.”
And there is a big black market for stolen fuel in Mexico. At the top, the cartels and corrupt officials buy and sell the stolen gas. One investigator estimated that more than two billion dollars in stolen fuel money had been laundered through the financial system, by officials of the state oil company, gas station owners, and other wealthy business people. They are the ones who profit from the risk the poor take. But they are not the ones who burned to death.
The new president of Mexico, Lopez Obrador, says he wants to stop this gasoline theft. He even offered to help pay for the funerals of those who burned to death. But poor people will continue to take the risk, and some will continue to burn to death, as long as there are no decent ways to survive.
The real criminals are not the poor who steal gas: they are the wealthy and corporations from Mexico and the U.S. who have looted Mexico for more than a century, including the country’s oil wealth. They have made it impossible for ordinary Mexican people to live decently in their own country. And it will take much more than a president’s nice words to take on these criminals.
This is what capitalism means in Mexico. Poor people burning to death, while the rich profit from their crimes.