04262019Fri
Last updateFri, 12 Apr 2019 2pm

Columns

Pain at the pump

As the gasoline shortages hitting Jalisco and other parts of Mexico grind into a second week, the lakeside area has gotten off fairly unscathed.

pg17aWhile Tapatio motorists cope with long lines at the few metro-area service stations supplied with fuel, those inhabiting the northshore corridor come across only occasional closures due to empty pumps. Local gas stations have remained open on a hit-and-miss basis thanks to limited daily deliveries to maintain customer service.    

We can’t foresee how long or how deep the crisis will go as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) continues combating widespread theft of Pemex petrol by both organized crime and company insiders.

In the meantime, the situation seems to have rendered a few local benefits. Drivers getting out on the road are noticing some relief from constant traffic congestion along the Chapala-Jocotepec highway, presumably because people are driving less to conserve gas and cut down stops to refill their tanks.

With fewer cars circulating, it’s become easier to find prime parking spots – except perhaps in the vicinity of Chapala City Hall where residents are headed to pay their property taxes. Plus, air quality should improve from less automotive fumes spewed into the atmosphere.

 

Mexican news reports on AMLO’s efforts to stem the Pemex pillage and consequent fuel shortages often employ the words huachicol, huachicoleo and huachicolero as terms of reference. Huachicol signifies the pilfered gasoline itself. Huachicoleo is the practice of siphoning fuel from Pemex ducts, refineries and sub-stations. The huachicolero is an individual engaged in the criminal activity.

The terms derive from ancient roots, tracing back to Mayan cultures in the Yucatán peninsula where the word waach was used to describe suspicious outsiders. It morphed into the Spanish huache to refer to products of dubious quality.

By the time of the Mexican Revolution, huachicol had become a common moniker for pure tequila or other spirits adulterated by the addition of cheaper alcohol de caña (sugarcane alcohol). In recent times it was first applied to diluted fuel delivered by Pemex truck drivers who drained off a portion of their loads for clandestine sale and pumped an equivalent amount of water into the tanks to cover up the deed.

As the country braces for possible side effects of a prolonged gasoline crisis – such as impacts on public transportation, the movement of consumer goods and inflation rates – media outlets are spreading fuel conservation tips. For example, gas consumption can be reduced with regular engine maintenance, proper tire pressure, driving at moderate speeds, turning off air conditioning and heaters, and keeping the gas tanks full to prevent loss by evaporation.  Or simply save gas by driving less. Avoid unnecessary outings and use alternate modes of transportation such as buses, bicycles and walking.

What keeps Mexican folks from wringing their hands over the stress of fuel shortage is their irrepressible knack for facing all doom and disaster with a sense of humor. Memes on huachiocol themes are now popping up all over social media, including a mild barb at AMLO, renowned for traveling in a modest VW Jetta, mockingly said to lack air conditioning, car radio, sense of direction and now, sin gasolina.