Mexican authorities increased the official toll to 79 dead, 81 injured as the result of a fuel-theft explosion in the state of Hidalgo. Dozens more are reported missing following the failed attempt by hundreds of villagers to steal fuel from a ruptured pipeline.
As Breitbart News reported, the blast took place in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo where hundreds of villagers gathered carrying hundreds of plastic containers in order to fill them with fuel that was spewing out from a ruptured pipeline. For reasons yet unknown, the fuel ignited setting off a large-scale explosion that set the villagers on fire. Many of the villagers were drenched in gasoline.
Mexican authorities initially responded to carry out a large-scale rescue operation while they worked to put out the fire. The rescue effort later turned into a body recovery operation where authorities began documenting and trying to identify the growing number of casualties.
The blast has become the latest controversy faced by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) whose government shut down several of the country’s main fuel pipelines as part of a strategy to root out the country’s widespread theft of fuel. The effort set off a series of gasoline shortages throughout Mexico as the country’s state-owned oil company (Pemex) was forced to rely on fuel trucks rather than pipelines for deliveries.
Breitbart News reported on the widespread practice by drug cartels of tapping into Pemex pipelines as part of large scale fuel-theft operations. According to AMLO, much of the fuel theft is tied to Pemex officials helping cartels or other criminal groups. While some of the fuel is sold on street corners by cartel members, the majority is sold to gas stations as part of a vast black market. The fight for control of the stolen fuel market led to increased violence in the once-quiet Central Mexican states like Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Queretaro, and others where large criminal empires like Cartel Jalisco New Generation now try to take regional control by force, Breitbart News reported.
Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon. You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com.
Brandon Darby is the managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jose Luis Lara and Tony Aranda from the Cartel Chronicles project contributed to this report.