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City Takes Action to Address San Miguel’s Gas Shortage

By Karla Ortiz

Fifteen days into a nationwide gas shortage due to a federal oil antitheft program,  the municipality is demanding from Pemex a prompt response about the situation and information about when it will be resolved.

San Miguel de Allende—a town whose lifeblood is short-term, weekend tourism, most often by travelers in cars—is already feeling the effects of the gas uncertainty going on here and in several other states. San Miguel’s restaurants, hotels, spas, nightclubs, and taxi services are already feeling the pinch.

“There aren’t many taxis. Owners who operated their own taxis decided their best choice was to stop giving service,” said Jorge Salazar, a veteran taxi driver of 13 years.

President of the Business Coordinating Council José Benigno Torres says he favors the actions President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is taking to combat illegal fuel siphoning from pipelines, but he also believes it necessary to address a distribution strategy for gas supplies.

“It is urgent that there is no shortage of fuel, because this can lead to a stoppage in production activity, something that is already worrying for the business sector,” he said.

Commerce in SMA has not and will not stop, he said, even if the level of visitors drop in the coming weekends, a situation that will greatly hurt the tourism sector, a significant portion of the city’s population, he said.

Salazar told Atención that a group representing taxi drivers met on January 7 and demanded from the municipality a solution to the gas shortage. They also demanded that transport services be given an exclusive time to fill their tanks at gas stations because they are spending two to three hours in line to fill their tanks, resulting in significant earnings losses.

If the municipality does not have an answer, taxi drivers have promised to go on strike, he said.

“If by the first of February our situation is not resolved, dawn will come without a single taxi on the streets until they give us an [exclusive time] to refuel,” he said.

Other buisinesses have resorted to creative solutions to keep tourists coming to San Miguel: the Hotel Real de Minas is encouraging tourists to use long-distance buses to visit San Miguel and announced in a Facebook post that guests presenting a round-trip bus ticket at check-in will be reimbursed for 50 percent of the bus ticket’s cost with complimentary food and beverages ordered inside the hotel. (Only visitors from cities affected by the gas shortage are eligible for this promotion—México City, León, San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, Celaya, and Guanajuato.)

On January 13, the San Miguel de Allende City Council requested an emergency meeting of the municipal government—including Mayor Luis Alberto Villareal and the city’s security council—with representatives of city gas stations. At this meeting, officials and gas station owners agreed upon various security measures related to the fuel shortage:

1) Oficials agreed that the Secretariat of Public Safety, Municipal Transit, and Civil Protection will maintain heightened vigilence over the situation at gas stations, since there have already been some incidents at certain stations where gas disputes with customers turned over policies about filling car tanks and gas cans. Officials stated they expect citizens to be be supplied with fuel safely and in a discernible order that will make lines flow faster.

2) Officials and gas station owners also agreed that the private supply will begin at least 45 minutes after the gas stations receive the fuel, since 30 minutes is hended for the pipe to discharge the fuel and then another 15 minutes of inactivity is needed for employees to let the pipe “rest” and then to test each dispenser.

3) The mayor promised that at all times communication will remain unhindered for emergency vehicles and public safety. Cleanliness, waste collection, and public transport are all priorities, he said. And the Civil Protection Department will no longer permit the sale of gas in drums or other containers, officials agreed.

4) Gas station representatives agreed to have a specific system in place to inform the public about which stations plan to have fuel available and when. That information will be distributed through the regular communication channels of the municipal government, including its official social media accounts.

 

On January 14, the city government sent a letter to Pemex, demanding a supply of fuel be delivered, since during the weekend of January 11–13, only six 20,000-liter tanker trucks brought fuel to San Miguel. (This does not include tanker-truck deliveries made by private sources to non-Pemex gas stations.)

City officials hope that this call will prompt Pemex to supply more tanker trucks during the week and especially on the weekend, since that is when more tourists come and need to to fill up their cars.

The city currently reccomends the following to the public:

1. Go to gas stations only when really necessary and do not completely fill your tank. Leave some for others.

2. Help ensure that emergency, security, public transit and utility vehiclees have preference for filling up.

3. Use public transportation whenever possible.

4. Optimize the gas use of your vehicle.

5. Carpool with neighbors and coworkers. Parents of children needing rides should organize carpooling groups when many family groups need to reach the same destination.

6. Understand that the sale of gas in containers is absolutely restricted for safety reasons.

7. Only call 911 for true emergencies, to make sure that 911 remains efficient and can respond to all truly necessary calls.

8. Observe all instructions of the authorities and those in charge at gas stations regarding sales logistics.

9. Understand that the Secretariat of Public Security and the Municipal Transit and Civil Protection departments will maintain order and security regarding the gas supply and regarding the free flow of traffic on city streets.

President López Obrador says shutdowns working, urges patience

In spite of the inconsistencies that this federal program to counter fuel theft is causing in more than eight states, President López Obrador is defending his plan against huachicol (gas siphoning from pipelines) and promises that the gasoline supply will soon be regularized. However, on January 14 at the president’s daily morning press conference, Director of Pemex Octavio Romero Oropeza said that the number of barrels stolen per day has gone down from 126,000 in December to 2,500. In addition, Romero Oropeza said that authorities believed they can achieve a surplus of 290,000 barrels, which could mean that the average amount of fuel stores could go up.

“Under this scheme of combating fuel theft, which has been carried out, seven more pipelines can be reopened to allow us to recover our inventory,” said Romero Oropeza.

The pipelines expected to open are: Tuxpan-Tula, Brownsville-Reynosa-Cadereyta, Madero-Victoria-Cadereyta, San Martin Texmelucan-Valle de México, Turbosina Tula-Azcapotzalco, Tula-Salamanca and Salamanca-Guadalajara.

San Miguel gets its gas supply from a distribution center in Querétaro.

However, authorities did not specify when the the pipelines would be reopened. And López Obrador again called on citizens to support his antitheft strategy and not collaborate with fuel thieves or buy stolen fuel. Similarly, Pemex asked the people to continue reporting fuel thefts by phone at 01800 228 9660 or by email at vigilante@pemex.com

 

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