Last updateFri, 08 Jan 2021 2pm

Pipeline blast: finger pointing should be in one direction only

Sometimes playing the blame game just doesn’t cut it.

Such is the case with the gas pipeline explosion that killed more than 90 people in Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo on January 17.

In the anger-consumed social media void – as well as the dank offices of slippery politicos and mansions of discredited former presidentes – there are those who are quick to heap blame squarely on the shoulders of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. After all, they say, it was his decision to close off the nation’s gasoline pipelines – part of his strategy to crack down on widespread fuel theft – that induced hundreds of people living in ramshackle neighborhoods in close proximity to the ruptured poliducto to go looking, canisters in hand, for free gas. It was also the president’s fault, some say, for failing to send in a full military battalion to safeguard the zone as soon as the perforated pipeline started to shoot fuel into the late afternoon sky.

For others, it is convenient to blame the two dozen or so soldiers dispatched to the site for not preventing the wave of around 800 neighbors advancing on the pipeline from all sides. As it was, they did issue warnings of the dangers but none were heeded. Outnumbered by around 35 to one, what were the soldiers supposed to do?

One might also point the finger at local politicians in Hidalgo state – concerned at the long lines at gas stations – for pressuring the federal government into reopening the pipeline before the crackdown program had fully taken effect.   Surprise, surprise … no sooner had the valves on the Tula-Tuxpan pipeline been turned back on, than someone tapped it, thus provoking the leak/explosion.

And, obviously, there are the victims themselves. How could these people be so ignorant of the dangers they were putting themselves in? Incredibly, many were getting doused in fuel as they milled around the gushing pipe moments before the blast.  Aren’t they as guilty as the professional fuel thieves – just another example of the culture of wanting something for nothing, raged some social media judges and juries.

But the majority of the men and women who died, incinerated while clutching their plastic and metal canisters, weren’t the hardened huachicoleros (gas thieves) Lopez Obrador has been hunting down since the end of last year. These were humble folk, living below the bread line in modest dwellings, light years away from the organized crime gangs that drill into pipelines, corrupt Pemex officials that sanction the theft and dishonest gas station owners that buy the “underground” fuel. And is it just chance that the victims of most tragedies in Mexico (and the world over) are invariably the poorest members of society? “It was a risk but necessity took us there,” one survivor of the blast told reporters.

Which brings us to the huachicoleros themselves.  If anyone is to blame for the tragedy it is surely these aforementioned “bola de ratas,” as law-abiding Mexicans are given to calling them.  If blame is to be apportioned on a scale of one to ten, where do the huachicoleros come in the general public’s reckoning?  Eight, nine … or maybe ten?

Lopez Obrador has said that despite the sadness of the tragedy, he will not deviate from his long-term goal of combatting fuel theft, a crime that caused Pemex to lose an estimated $US3 billion in 2017.

For that, he must be applauded.   

No Comments Available