"Stealing from Pemex is more profitable than being a Zeta" - Interview with a huachicolero

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"Stealing from Pemex is more profitable than being a Zeta" - Interview with a huachicolero

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Mexico City /13.01.2019 04:50:35

"As long as gasoline continues to pass through the tubes, this business will continue," says a subject dedicated to fuel theft, who also tells in detail the way these bands emerged and operate.

A former Los Zetas member from northern Mexico became a huachicolero in the center of the country in the last six years . From being a soldier in drug trafficking, he became a worker specialized in an illegal activity that requires so many mafia skills as engineering and where the term huachicol  is part of a broader jargon, with key words like La Niña , La Diabla , Los Halcones and Las Paloma.  I interviewed for a long time this pioneer of the buoyant business of the huachicol for a documentary in which the details of a problem fought as never before by the new government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador are reported . To continue giving me his testimony, the huachicolero asked to preserve his anonymity, although he agreed to mention his age (30 years) and his region of origin (the northeast of the country).

 "I worked with the Zetas in the north. When I left the center [when it says center always refers to Puebla , State of Mexico , Veracruz , Hidalgo , Querétaro and Guanajuato ] I started to know about milking. There was a friend who invited me to work with him and there he began to explain what was happening. I started to compare things: walking with crime or stealing from Pemex , and it made it safer to grab money from where the pipelines were, since it was better paid and you had more time to go free on the street . " 

-What was your first experience?  

-As I was saying, around 2012 or 2013 came a person from the center to the north to recruit people to work in the milking of gasoline, as it is known. He told us how much they were going to pay us for the pipe we took out. For each pipe they paid us four thousand pesos , depending on who we were. Apart they gave us for the hotel and for food and they gave us a party every two weeks.

In the center there was another group of people who were specialized in the line of the pipeline. When we arrived with these people they explained to us each step and each procedure: the function of each person, what we had to do, as well as the hawking that had to be done when the government authorities came together.  

-What was the first thing they did?

-The first thing was to find a safe place, that was hidden and where the tube would go. Something like someone's ranch, a private property. We went with that person and gave him money too, in exchange for letting us work on his property. During the day we fell asleep, at night it was when we could work the most because that way there is not so much traffic, there were not so many people, so much mobilization.    

- And how they did they sell the stolen gasoline?

-In the beginning, when we did not have so many clients, it was when we moved to another city or started working elsewhere, where Pemex's pipelines were not very well known . There we began to find people who, by means of acquaintances, already told us: "no, guide yourself with this one, drive with it" and we took out a pipe of twenty thousand liters and they said: "No, it's that I do not have anyone to buy you so much "And they began to tell us:" he wants five, the other wants ten, he wants five more "and that's how we were getting rid of gasoline little by little.

Sometimes we stopped in one place, in a ranch and hid the pipe right there and the customers went for their order they wanted. We had a truck with some tanks and with those tanks we made them reach the people they wanted.

-What kind of instruments do you use for milking?

-To work we needed a few irons and especially La niña .

-What is La Niña ?

- La Niña  is the main device used to drill the Pemex pipeline. The Pemex pipeline is thick and each one comes with some numbers to identify when it is gasoline or diesel. Some specialists pass us those numbers and we can already check which number should be milked . The nina  are two rods, which look like chonguitos, in the middle of which goes a thick tube where we put an iron. In the middle of the iron it goes like a big drill bit that welds with a tube that measures about one and a half meters. When we put it in the tube we weld two rods on each side and in the middle goes the bit. Then, with the bit we start to take flight and it is drilled according to the tube. When a hole is drilled down a pipe, it goes like a welded valve. With that welded valve, you start drilling. You take out the rod and start closing the valve. To drill, you need between twenty and forty minutes , depending on the time and equipment you have. You also have to rent a large power plant for welding. At the time of welding a lot of noise is made, that is why we work at night so that people do not suspect when we are working.

- What other instrument is important for tapping apart from La Niña ?

-There what is coming is the valve. We have to do them ourselves and when putting them in the tube, we weld around. Once the valve in the tube has been welded, it is already inserted and next to it the small sticks are welded and in the middle the drill goes. The drill opens a hole and when the diesel jumps you take out the nut, you close the valve and when closing the tube is ready. Pal tube you need a special rod. You make a thin rod that measures two meters. With that you are looking for you in the land, you put it with a mallet where the lines of Pemex go, especially where there are those signs of "Do not dig" because it is where the tubes are. Many people in the area often know where the tube passes, although Pemex does what it does in curves. As it is curving, then you do not know if the pipes are two meters from the pole or two meters from the post that says "Do not dig".

Once you have located the tube you have to take some sacks where you throw the earth you dig. When making the valve, make the picket, you have to cover the sacks with the same and you have to throw back the earth. Leave everything normal so that they do not see where the hole was made and you can do the milking.

- How long does it take to tap a pipe a pipe?

-Depends on what size it is. There are pipes of twenty thousand liters and there are forty-three thousand. It also depends on how thick the bit is and how many people you work with. If everyone makes a hole well, because sometimes just the tip remains or you do not get to make the hole well and it does not come out very much ... When there are problems it takes up to two hours to fill a pipe of forty-three thousand liters and when You do a good job for up to fifty minutes.

-How many people participate normally?  

-Depends, for the hawks [guards of the band], the more security the better. Of security we have to have from ten to twenty people because we leave them according to the roads: if there are three roads where we are going to work, we must leave  falcons  from the beginning to the shores.

-And apart from the security, how many are the team-say- technician who does the tapping?  

-As twenty people in total. And normally we do it at dawn.

- Are there engineers working with you?

-Yes, depending on the work. According to what each person needs to do. There is one that takes care of the picket, there is one that is responsible for filling, there is another that is responsible for opening the valve, there is another that is responsible for closing. To load a pipe you need at least one person who opens, another who connects the hose and the one that loosens it. In addition to the driver.

-And the hawks that are watching are armed?

- Those who are watching are at a distance, usually on the roads. Suddenly you hear that a car is coming, then the people who are there in the van of us go and intercept them. Check and once checked you see the person you are. If there are problems, shots are heard. When there are shots, we have to leave the shot and we all know where we are going to join later . We are all walking because we can not wait for them to look for us. When there are problems, they notify later. The army arrives and they start to get everyone out.


- Are there authorities who agree with you?  

-Yes, here is how everything. Here is Mexico, right? Here you can also have money what  Las Palomas are . Las Palomas  are the ones that work for Pemex. They are those who are checking the pipeline according to the route they have.

- Are there Pemex security chiefs?

-Yes, they are security chiefs. They are the ones in charge of giving security to the Pemex pipeline. Are those who, if there is a way to contact them, through workers or people who have worked there with them, are contacted, an agreement is reached, either a pipe that we give them a week or a percentage of each pipe and let's get out

-How much percentage?

-Per pipe. And a pipe we can sell at least ten pesos a liter.

- How do they sell it?  

-In the beginning, as I told you. But a long time ago all this is handled in large trailer lines. Trailer lines or people who have acquired, for example, combis. They are companies or associations and you agree with them and see that they buy them right there. Or sometimes we have a place where the pipe goes and gets there and then starts to distribute, that five thousand liters who wants and another five thousand for another client ...

-Among the clients there are legal companies?

-Yes. You have to have a buyer so that in the morning you buy diesel and if you can get a daily pipe or two. According to the pipes you have, if you have two pipes, you can take the two daily, put one and then put the other.

-The buyers are already agreed before the tapping?

- Now yes, almost the buyers already locate them, already from before. Sometimes they are late with the payment, they do not have it for that same day but the next day they have it for you. Since pos they want as you leave them cheap: ten pesos a liter or eleven pesos, depending on the place.

-Among the buyers there are legal gas stations?

-Yes. There are many buyers who have gas stations.

- And how they affected the increase of the prices of the gasolines these years?

-The more you increase, the more you pay to us. It's better for us. The more they pay us, the more each worker earns ... and the more Las Palomas earn  .

- Do not force gas station owners to sell stolen gas?

-Well, it's almost that many are handled like this. And when they see that if they can do or have the way to buy, many do. Once buying it, it is already forces that have to buy them. Sometimes they did not want to buy it and the boss told us "if you do not buy it there, throw it there at the gas station" and they had nothing left but to buy it.


- And how do they get the pipes to take the gas?

- Sometimes, the head of the market sold us the pipes, sometimes they got it to us or sometimes he would steal them from his people and beat them. Or they removed the knot of estuary, they were changed and then we used them for a few times.  

-Instruments like La Niña do you yourselves?

-Yes, that we already have to have the necessary equipment. We already have soldering iron, bits, according to the material.

-And what other important instruments are there for tapping?

- The Diabla  is a hose with special mesh so that it is not tracked by the detector that Pemex has. Is that they have special devices to detect where there are leaks, but that hose from  La Diabla helps  us not to detect the leak.  

-¿ La Diabla prevents the command center monitoring Pemex will not notice?

-No, it does not detect. Send as a tracking system for the entire area more or less is leaking and already with Diabla  the system is rejected, according to which they handle.

-How do you get those tools?

-Send to do with special people who are dedicated to hoses and are asked with what material.

-And how long is a gasoline outlet?

-The shot can last from that little while we did it until a month at the most, the most. It depends on the place and how it is done. Sometimes we can put long hose according to twenty, thirty, forty meters, which is for the time of going to load that are not marked the tracks of the truck near the tube. That is why sometimes you identify where there is a pipe, where there is a pipe, where they are pulling ...  

- And then the people from Pemex, from the army, come and cover the take?

-Yes, now ...  Las Palomas are here  and they already put in a tub and they do their job. They try to cover the tube, they put a sensor pa, if it moves, the system arrives and from there they send special people.  

- But Las Palomas are arranged with you?

-When they are fixed, as they want they also have to put work, that's why we only work a month and then we give them to present them. Other times we do not have them fixed and that's why we occupy  hawks . Las Palomas  do three tours in the twenty-four hours, in a whole day. For example, if they do it at eight o'clock at night, we can work at eight thirty, depending on where we are working.

-Have you ever been caught?

-When they already grab us here in short, they do not give us time to save the equipment anymore. And what we do now is to lose the team better than to lose people, which is what helps us to work. We can recover the team and people can no longer recover.


  -How much can you earn in a good month?  

-If you sell two pipes a day of twenty thousand liters, they will pay us ten pesos a liter , or little more, because it goes up. We sell them at that price but then there is a manager to accommodate or sell the gasoline, to look for the buyer, and when a person searches for the buyer, that person will earn a peso for each liter of what is going to be taken out but He will take charge of the collection of the money.  

- Where is the stealing of gasoline stronger? In the north or in the center of the country?

-In the north there has been little. It started as in 2012 or 2013. All this comes from here in the center of the country. It is where there are teams and it is where everyone works according to the area where they play. It's like everything. They are people who have relatives in the north and offer them work. They go to work for the center and suddenly, those people already know how to work in the north.

- Are there narco groups involved in this business?

-In each state they dominate certain posters and they are the people to whom we have to pay them. And if there is a place where there is no place, where there is no crime, then we have to make do with the government, more than anything. Or where there are criminals, we can also settle with the government.

  -I mean, first it's about fixing with the head of the plaza...

-First we arrange with the boss, the mere good, be it delinquency or government, the chief in charge of the plaza. Once settled with him, and sometimes he brings communication. He is going to stop us with some of the patrols, the police or I do not know ... marine, federal, depending on the amount that is given.  

-And there are no disputes over the territory?  

-When we are in a state where a cartel governs, we have to ask for permission to work and he already tells us: "You work for that side and those work for another." That is, they already assign us to the place where ...

-You have worked in the center and in the north in this business, what is the main difference?  

-In the center there is a lot of competition. There are many groups and in the north, milking was not very well known. In addition, in the north  Las Palomas  take more care of the pipelines.

- Do you think that more gas is stolen in the center than in the north?

-Yes. In the center, tapping was started more than anything, the  huachicol  that they say. From there it was unleashed according to each state to the north. Right now it is almost at all national level where they are taking that milking of fuel. We give money to people who are from a ranch, from private properties where the pipe passes or we also give to people who help us or who take care of us. There were times we worked near a ranch and there are people, we also give them two thousand pesos each, either two or three. They have informed us of the movements during the day or what happened. Or if there are problems we leave a number pa to mark us.


- Do you think that this business will end some day?

- No, while gasoline continues to pass through the tubes, it will continue to continue this business. The government tries to stop it but, since there are many people who dedicate themselves to that and how much they like money, here you can invest ... To make a well you invest two or three hundred thousand pesos. That is, buying an old trailer or pipe, buying material and that take it out in a day or two days ... And the rest, if you work in a week, the rest is for you.  There are a few times you make a well and right there you get the guachos when you are doing it and discover it. It touched me once we were making a well. The well you have to do two meters. And when Las Palomas arrive , if you can not close it, and what you do best is to leave and leave it like that, to take care of yourself. ... but then you can try again.

- And the common people that you see support them? Neighbors of ranches or villages where they operate ...

-Yes, sometimes we give them money. We give pa the cocas. Other times we pass for government personnel. People do not realize what we do in itself. Once we rent a ranch and we have some pipes there and the lady asked us what we were and we told her that we were from the water commission, that we were with an engineer but we did not know that much yet, that's why ... Mucha People were not aware of what milking fuel really was. So far it is very mentioned.

-And now that more people are aware of what their business has changed

-That is why a little while ago in the center and many people are doing between the colonies of some cities and towns, where it reaches to pass the tube there sometimes what they do is put small pipes of ten thousand liters. They put them in boxes of trucks, they put in their pipes and they also leave and park in the neighborhood and there they load them at night. Same right now. Right now that is what is being handled by the center, which the pipelines do, they do not do them on the banks because right now they put in a double shift of Las Palomas . If before they reviewed the route every five hours, now they are doing it every two and a half hours.

People manage in one way and another to continue with the business. Money is money.