Only six weeks into his presidency, Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador already faces his first major crisis. In part self-inflicted, in part a consequence of the corrupt and weak institutions he inherited from his predecessors, it is nevertheless a sign that governing Mexico will be a formidable challenge for the man who promised nothing less than a fundamental transformation of the country and on whom millions of Mexicans are resting their hopes.
Citizens across western and central Mexico, which includes the 25 million people living in Mexico City and the surrounding State of Mexico, have been waiting in line for hours for gasoline over the past month. The situation is the result of a federal crackdown on oil and gas theft by organized gangs, which has seen the government shut down pipelines and switch to transporting fuel by truck and rail, prompting both the closure of hundreds of gas stations and panicked buying throughout the region.
The crisis has provoked the first great tragedy of Mexico’s new administration. On Jan. 17, a pipeline in Hidalgo, which had been ruptured by fuel thieves, exploded as local villagers attempted to collect gas in plastic containers. At least 96 people died.