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Gas theft increasing as Mexico has banned US fuel imports
McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Since late October, Mexico has not allowed most U.S. gasoline to be imported south of the border.
This is happening as drug cartels in Mexico are increasingly stealing fuel and gasoline there, and it comes after cartel gunmen forced gas tanker trucks to dump their loads in the border town of Matamoros, south of Brownsville, Texas.
Two South Texas congressmen say the temporary export ban is hurting U.S. trade and violates the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on exports and imports, which was signed in 2020.
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat who represents Brownsville, recently sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai expressing “grave concern” about the situation in Mexico regarding rising fuel thefts, and a current embargo on many U.S. fuel imports placed by the Mexican government.
“This unprovoked attack is of great concern as it is not an isolated event. My district is heavily impacted by incidents like these which fail to preserve the spirit of the USMCA,” Gonzalez wrote in the Nov. 2 letter to Tai, which his office released Wednesday.
He has asked Tai to intervene with Mexican officials to stop the gasoline ban.
U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, also signed the letter, which accuses Mexico of trying to “nationalize its economy and renege on its commitments in the USMCA as a means of empowering its failing state-owned petroleum company.”
Cuellar told Border Report on Thursday that it doesn’t make sense for Mexico to ban gasoline imports from the United States when the country is suffering gasoline thefts.
Cuellar said he believes it is the current Mexican administration’s way of trying to circumvent changes to the country’s energy policies that were put in place by the previous administration.
“They’re using a problem that they’ve had for so many years to justify why they should attack American energy, which is in violation of the USMCA,” Cuellar told Border Report. “When the criminal organizations steal their fuel, one, the government is losing revenues; two, you’re enriching the criminal organizations; and three, by using that as an excuse, you’re attacking the spirit of the law of the USMCA by attacking energy.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Oct. 23 announced a ban on dozens of refined petroleum and petro chemical products, including U.S. gasoline. He says this was done to stop the rising theft of gasoline within the country.
The ban came a week after “cartel gunmen forced a dozen tanker trucks to dump imported U.S. gasoline into a field at gunpoint,” on Oct 16 in Matamoros, according to the letter.
The stealing of gasoline is called “huachicoleo” and has been a problem in Mexico for years, according to several reports.
Cuellar says it is driven by Mexican drug cartels that have expanded their operations from the trafficking of illegal drugs and humans to exploitation of other commodities, like energy.
Plus, gasoline is far more expensive in Mexico, by about 125% in some instances, which is driving the cartel to capitalize on this industry.
“The bottom line is there is a difference of price of the U.S. and the fuel over there in Mexico,” Cuellar said.
Cuellar says he has not heard of any instances similar to the Matamoros gas dumping occurring south of his hometown of Laredo in Nuevo Laredo, or south of the South Texas border area he represents, which includes the counties of Webb, Zapata and Starr.
Gonzalez wrote that the incident in Matamoros has “heavily impacted” his district.
“The border city of Matamoros plays a pivotal role in border crossings and trade, significantly
contributing to the success of the USMCA. The spread of huachicoleo stands to jeopardize our mutually beneficial relationship with Mexico,” the letter says.
Through USMCA, over $1.8 trillion worth of trade in goods and services were produced in 2022, growing Texas’ gross domestic product by $17.6 billion and creating over 160,000 new jobs, according to the letter.
Cuellar said trade between the U.S. and Mexico last year exceeded $863 billion, and he predicts within five years will hit over $1 trillion.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.