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Mexico government says fuel theft down 72 percent

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Mexico City (AFP)

Mexico said on Thursday that theft of state fuel has been reduced by 72 percent since it launched a strategy to combat the crime at the end of last year.

"We've achieved a substantial reduction in oil theft. If we continue like this we could save around 50 billion pesos ($2.6 billion)," said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in a press conference.

Octavio Romero, the director of state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), said 7.8 billion pesos had been saved between December 21, when the strategy was launched, and February 19.

Part of the strategy involved the closing of pipelines from which most of the country's fuel is transported.

That resulted in the unprecedented sight during the first half of January of daily queues at gas stations, while on January 18 132 people were killed after a pipeline exploded as it was being looted by hundreds of people using an illegal tap.

Despite this, opinion polls suggested the majority backed the government's move.

Fuel theft, involving organized criminals and corrupt officials, costs Pemex $3 billion a year, according to government statistics.

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