Mexico deploys 4,000 troops, choppers against pipeline theft

Vehicles stand in line to fill up their fuel tanks at a gas station in Mexico, City, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. A fuel scarcity arose after President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador decided to close government pipelines riddled with illegal fuel taps drilled by thieves, and instead deliver gas and diesel by tanker trucks. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has ordered helicopters and 4,000 troops to guard the nation's pipelines and fuel depots in an offensive against massive fuel theft.

The helicopters are watching for organized gangs that drill illegal taps into underground ducts carrying gasoline and diesel.

Long lines continued at gas stations in Mexico City and outlying states Friday as tanker trucks struggled to supply fuel normally delivered through pipelines.

Most Mexicans understood the need to crack down on $3 billion per year in fuel thefts, but patience was wearing thin.

The head of Mexico's employers' federation said economic losses from fuel shortages now amount to over $60 million due to transportation delays for goods and workers.

Gustavo de Hoyos says the emergency measure "cannot continue much longer."

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