Kirk Semple / The New York Times
SAN SALVADOR HUIXCOLOTLA, Mexico — Some of the day’s first customers pull into the produce market at dawn, but not with fruit and vegetables on their minds. They’re looking for cheap, stolen gasoline.
On the edge of the market, dozens of vendors have set up shop, with stacks of five-gallon containers full of stolen fuel and rubber hoses to siphon it.
“How much, cousin?” the vendors holler as they swarm the hundreds of motorists who drive through every day. The price is less than half what customers would pay at nearby gas stations.
The brisk, open gas trade is one of the more obvious manifestations of Mexico's national fuel-theft epidemic. Thieves are now siphoning gasoline and diesel fuel at record-high rates from the system — often by drilling taps into pipelines under cover of darkness — and are selling it on the black market around Mexico and perhaps even in the United States and Central America.