Attacks on Mexican gas pipeline
Attacks on Mexican gas pipeline force factories, businesses to temporarily shut down
The Associated PressPublished: July 11, 2007
MEXICO CITY: Honda, Hershey's, and other multinational companies temporarily shut down their factories in western Mexico after rebels attacked a key natural gas pipeline.
The small, left-wing guerrilla group that claimed responsibility for the explosions vowed to continue the attacks, while the Mexican government scrambled to increase security at "strategic installations" across Mexico.
Security analysts and energy experts on Wednesday downplayed the attacks, noting they were relatively small in nature and mostly symbolic, having little effect on the economy.
Officials from Mexico's state-owned oil and gas monopoly Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, said an explosion Tuesday and two more last week affected different sections of the same pipeline extending from central Mexico City to Guadalajara, the industry-rich capital of the western state of Jalisco. The company sent 150 workers to repair the line.
At least a dozen companies including Honda Motor Co., Kellogg Co., The Hershey Co., Nissan Motor Co., and Grupo Modelo SA, Mexico's largest beer maker, were forced to suspend or scale back operations because of the lack of natural gas, the daily newspaper Excelsior reported.
Today in Americas
Air pollution holds risks for athletes who exercise outdoorsBush asks patience on 'ugly war' in Iraq after getting mixed progress reportObituary: Lady Bird Johnson, 94, former U.S. first lady
Vitro SAB, a Mexican company that makes glass containers, said the shutdown of two plants would cost it about US$800,000 (â‚¬580,000) a day. Vitro said in a statement that it was increasing production at other plants in Mexico to minimize effects on customers.
Nissan Mexicana said in a statement it would use liquid petroleum to restart operations at its plant in the central state of Aguascalientes, which employs 6,000 workers. The company also said it had reached an agreement with the workers' union to modify work schedules to make up for lost production.
The association representing Mexican industry noted in a statement late Wednesday that area businesses affected by the gas explosion "without a doubt ... are being seriously impacted." It did not quantify the damages or name specific businesses.
Excelsior, citing unidentified sources, reported that total business losses were being estimated at more than 70 million pesos (US$6.4 million; â‚¬4.65 million) a day.
Pemex said the gas would probably not be restored until Friday at the earliest, but was working to provide alternative means of delivery.
The explosions forced the evacuation of some communities but caused no injuries, Pemex said.
The group that claimed responsibility for the pipeline attacks is the "military zone command of the People's Revolutionary Army," or EPR, a tiny rebel group that staged several armed attacks on government and police installations in southern Mexico in the 1990s, but was later weakened by internal divisions.
The EPR said its members had planted explosives on the pipeline. Mexican security officials on Tuesday confirmed that the pipeline had been attacked, but did not identify suspects or say whether explosives were involved.
In a statement late Tuesday, the EPR said it was waging a "prolonged people's war" against "the anti-people government."
It was impossible to independently verify the statement, which was posted on a Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for bulletins from Latin American armed groups.
The left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party issued a statement Wednesday casting doubt on the EPR's involvement. The party said it "wasn't ruling out" the government's own involvement, either to generate support for allowing private investment in Pemex, to use as an excuse to crack down on leftist groups or "to distract people from the grave problems that afflict the country."
President Felipe Calderon's office did not comment immediately.
Pamela K. Starr, a Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in Washington, called the attacks "mostly symbolic, limited by the small size and logistical capacity of the group."
George Baker, a Houston, Texas-based energy analyst who follows Pemex closely, said the attacks represent only minor headaches for the monopoly because they were limited to a pipeline that can be fixed relatively easily. The sabotage of refineries or privately owned international pipelines would have been much more serious, he said.
"As long as we're talking about just some pipelines in the desert someplace, we don't have to worry about it too much," Baker said.