2,000 soldiers more deployed to Puebla
Governor Antonio Gali announced the deployment this morning, saying it was in addition to 400 soldiers who were sent in to the region yesterday.
Wednesday’s clashes took place between soldiers and suspected pipeline thieves, and provoked a five-hour blockade of the Puebla-Orizaba highway by local residents protesting what were labeled abuses by soldiers.
They were blamed for the death of a 48-year-old woman, whose family said she was returning home from working in the fields when soldiers opened fire.
The highway blockade came down after negotiations between residents and state officials. The former were demanding the release of the 14 people arrested Wednesday night and the withdrawal of the Army from the area, along with an end to its operations against pipeline theft.
The governor said the thefts were being carried out principally in six municipalities, where the thieves, known as huachicoleros, had corrupted local families, and even their children.
He said a young boy in Palmar de Bravo boasted about his earnings.
“I bring home more cash than my dad,” the boy said, explaining he earned 12,000 pesos — presumably per month — as a lookout.
In an earlier interview, Gali said the people who mounted the blockade were cannon fodder for organized crime, along with various mayors, municipal police and gas station owners.
Several mayors are under investigation, he said.
The governor observed that seven gas stations have been closed during his administration for selling stolen fuel and 83 police and other municipal authorities detained for colluding with pipeline thieves.
He said pipeline theft has been a problem in the area for the past eight years.
One of the mayors under investigation is Pablo Morales Ugalde of Palmar de Bravo. In March he was called to explain to prosecutors how 10 homes had been given permission to build on top of a Pemex pipeline on federal property.