The war on drugs has dominated media coverage of Mexico at home and abroad for a decade but another major public security concern is now competing for headlines: pipeline theft. Ten people were killed, including four soldiers, on 3 May after a military patrol tried to stop illegal tapping of a pipeline belonging to the state-controlled pipeline firm, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), in one of the five municipalities making up the so- called ‘Red Triangle’ in the central state of Puebla. This illicit activity is burgeoning. The heavily armed gangs engaged in it are being supplied and run by Mexico’s giant drug trafficking organisations (DTOs) and supported by local communities. A powerful combination. The challenge facing the government is at once social, environmental and financial, as well as being a serious security concern. The negative image it all gives Pemex, which is suffering huge losses from pipeline theft, could also deter foreign investors under the government’s energy reform.

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