>> After a massive pipeline explosion in Mexico killed at least 79 people, attention turned to the government's crackdown on gasoline theft. On Friday, in a small town in Hidalgo, Mexico, thieves punctured a pipeline, prompting hundreds to rush toward the geyser to fill up on fuel. Hours later, it exploded.
Now relatives of those killed and injured say the crackdown, which has led to severe gas shortages, was the reason so many risked their lives. Half a dozen people told Reuters Saturday their family members were just desperate to fill up their cars to get to work. Reuters' Anthony Esposito was at the scene.
>> Mexico's new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, launched a plan a couple of weeks back to combat fuel theft. Something that's been affecting Mexico for many years, and which has cost the government and the country billions of dollars a year.>> As part of the plan, Lopez Obrador ordered pipelines to be shut temporarily to stop thieves from stealing fuel.
The crackdown has caused major supply shortages across Mexico and raised worries about the national economy>> But polls show many Mexicans support the new president's mission, despite long lines at the pump. However the disaster in Hidalgo has brought renewed scrutiny of the strategy. Many criticize security forces at the scene for not warning people to get away from the leaking fuel.
But at a press conference Saturday, Lopez Obrador defended the army, saying soldiers had been right to avoid a large-scale confrontation with locals.