Who is Behind the Mask?

Halloween and Día De Los Muertos are here and those young and old are looking to find the exact right costume. My kids are going to terrorize the neighborhood as a Ninja and The Little Mermaid, while I go as a Mummy (sleepless, tired dad in disguise).

While you’re out for a good time this Halloween, you might come upon a police officer, your local mayor or a pirate. Quick question for you: “Which one has you most concerned?” If you’re in the United States and have enjoyed a few ghoulish cocktails the answer is clearly the law enforcement agent. What could be worse than a night in the drunk tank dressed up as Mr. Rogers?

But what if you’re in Mexico and it isn’t Halloween or Día De Los Muertos for that matter, and you’re trying to transport fuels? Approach the situation carefully, all three of these characters could be dangerous.

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Law Enforcement – Enforcing the Law… When Needed

“To Serve and Protect” are not just words associated with thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers here in the United States. Those words are a pledge to uphold the laws, take care of our citizens and defend against the wrong doers in society. Unfortunately, in Mexico, upholding the laws of the country is not as simple as catching bad guys and protecting the innocent.

The military and police in Mexico are faced with a very challenging choice. Serve and protect the people of the country according to the law and be faced with extreme peril or willingly accept that evil forces are a reality in life and choose to “accept their benevolence” while turning a blind eye. Many well-intentioned officers are caught in a choice of standing up to an organization that is sophisticated, well financed and heavily armed or accepting a payment to stand aside.

The Police may be scary, but a handful of pesos conceded will likely ensure that you continue about your business of transporting fuels or just have a good time on Halloween.


The Politician – Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies and Stuffing Their Pockets

The United States has the best electoral process in the world and even we are subject to undue influence. Heck, following the election of President Trump, there has rarely been a day that isn’t filled with headlines of Russian tampering or the ability of misleading social media to skew public perspective. Yet despite all that is currently wrong in Mexico, one could argue that the political system is actually still fairly functional. In 2018, the Mexican people wanted a cleansing of the government, a reset; and out of that environment came the rise of President Lopez Obrador and the election of a new Congress. The people wanted fresh faces and someone to champion their causes and their voice was heard on election day. But fresh faces don’t necessarily translate into fundamental change.

Do you know who likes Politicians? Politicians. Oh, and the Cartels. While “the process” in Mexico still works, the problems of corruption and malfeasance are systemic, and the newly elected representatives are often faced with the same choice as their predecessor or as Mr. Policeman. Politicians may walk in with the best of intentions but face a hard reality. Laws can be massaged. Judges can be influenced. Contracts awarded. Profitable business opportunities can be approved. It is the same old pay-to-play model that has existed for centuries. Those with power can be influenced by those seeking favor. You can risk it all for change and justice or accept the status quo and collect the offering of those who benefit from the corruption.


The Pirate – Just Doing My Job

Pirates have a well-earned, nasty reputation. With peg legs, hooks for hands, eye patches and an unending desire to accumulate wealth, pirates will pillage treasure from anyone and everyone at the cost of an arm or a leg. Mexico offers a wide range of business lines for the enterprising pirate from drug and human trafficking to fuel theft. And honestly, fuel theft might just offer the best returns. Transporting drugs or humans is tough and the markets are generally across national borders which calls for sophisticated planning, disguise and high risk for lost product with ICE lined up to prevent delivery into the United States.

Conversely, Mr. Pirate can tap into a pipeline full of diesel running across a discreet section of land, fill up transportable containers and drive them to town to sell on any street corner every day of the week with little fear of repercussion. The whole theft and sale transaction is made even easier when you work with local politicians, law enforcement and Pemex union workers to coordinate the entire operation. It makes the when, where and how pretty simple. And it is literally a river of money.

The moral of the story is that things are not always as they appear. While a pirate might be scary, that may be the most “known” quality among the three in our story today.

Need advice on the Mexican market? Click here to contact our international markets team.


Chad Smith
Senior Vice President of Terminal Services