The AMLO sandwich

What might have been and what perhaps still will be.

THE POPULIST president Mexico elected last year got off to a rip-roaring start in December, his first month in office. He wasted no time in causing chaos. He’s known by his initials, AMLO.

Here’s what he did, if you can believe it. Mexico has a longstanding and, apparently increasing, problem with gasoline theft by organized gangs. Their favored modus operandi is to tap into a pipeline, preferably in the boonies, and siphon it into tanker trucks.

Mexico is a major oil producer and has lots of refineries.

AMLO’s solution to this problem is to stop sending gasoline via pipelines and to transport it instead in Pemex tanker trucks, often accompanied by armed patrols. The fly in this ointment is that you cannot send anywhere nearly as much gasoline by tanker trucks as you can by pipeline.

This has resulted in severe gasoline shortages in parts of the country. Alas, one of the heaviest hit parts is right here on my mountaintop.

Most of our gas stations are closed all day. The ones that occasionally have gasoline have lines up to a half-mile long. I drove by one yesterday afternoon just up the highway from the Hacienda.

Here is an apt analogy to AMLO’s solution to the pipeline thefts: Say you want to halt bank robberies. The obvious remedy is to remove money from banks, right? Unfortunately, while bank robbers won’t have access to money in the banks, neither will customers.

* * * *

The AMLO sandwich?

Until this situation gets resolved, we’re not wasting gasoline on our habitual weekly drives to the nearby capital city to high-brow shop at Costco and Superama.

We’re sticking close to home. The Honda still has nearly three-quarters of a tank of petrol because I filled up Dec. 31 and have driven little since.

Costco is where I’ve purchased hydroponic lettuce for our nightly salads for years. I used the final lettuce Thursday night. Since no supermarket where I live stocks hydroponic lettuce, I planned to switch to egg sandwiches.

I was planning on calling them AMLO sandwiches.  It would have been a painful transition in spite of the fact that I like egg sandwiches. We are critters of habit.

But yesterday I decided to check the lettuce in our mountaintop supermarket. No hydroponic, of course. The store’s nod to highbrow is some sort of Italian greenery, so I bought four questionable bunches, brought them home and disinfected them.

No need to disinfect Costco’s hydroponic lettuce. It’s fast and easy.

We have bagels for only three mornings more, and the croissants are all gone. We’re just six weeks into AMLO’s six-year term.

This could get mighty ugly.

We are the bourgeoisie, so I guess we had it coming.

* * * *

(Here’s a Washington Post story on our gasoline crisis.)


55 thoughts on “The AMLO sandwich

  1. I just finished an egg sandwich, which is my breakfast choice every day unless I’m on the road somewhere. Even then I have one if there is a Waffle House nearby. They make a good one, but not as good as mine.

    I just read a news story about your gas shortage in an American newspaper. It has taken a while for it to make news up here. Too much political hay to be made on the government shutdown and the layoff of “non-essential employees.”

    What are your thoughts on the gangs? Are they common criminals or is it cartel? If the latter, I wonder how long AMLO will last.


    1. Ray: The pipeline thefts appear to be highly organized and done on a massive scale. I just saw a news story that police knew of one pipeline tap in Mexico City and just ignored it. Payoffs no doubt. And, I read this morning, there are 60 tankers waiting to deliver oil off Mexican ports, but they cannot do so because the storage tanks are all full due to the backup created by this dingaling president. In Mexico, the president has wide powers to do lots of stuff unilaterally. How long will AMLO last? Too long already, but likely to the end of his term. We have no vice president.

      I like egg sandwiches too. Maybe I should make one.


    1. Señor Gill: Of course, there is no scarcity. Our president has just decided to cut off the supply to hinder the thieves, an absurd solution. My bank analogy is spot-on. And I fear it will get worse.

      I did not remember the Guadalajara incident.


  2. With all due respect, your subjective take on the situation is bunk. There is a lot of far more comprehensive information through national media sources. It is far more than clandestine “ordeñando” of the pipelines and involves people at the highest level of PEMEX and the federal government. Including your favorite son, Felipe Calderon. Billions of dollars have been lost and most of that has gone straight to the top. Maybe you could deepen your understanding of the problem before you apply your extreme ideological criteria to the problem.

    I love egg sandwiches, especially with delicious avocado from Michoacán.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gerard: I am aware of the other issues, the widespread corruption, but closing the gasoline pipelines is idiotic. If it continues, the repercussions will be spectacularly wide-reaching and not in a good way, to state it mildly.


  3. Felipe: it isn’t just simple corruption du jour. The greatest amount of theft by far is directly through PEMEX itself. If you want to use banks for your analogy it is more like the bank owner discovers the bank president and CEOs are embezzling over 25% of the bank’s assets while losing another 5% to bank robbers. He freezes accounts to stop the theft, shuts down some branches and until the problem is resolved people cannot withdraw their money or they’re limited to a small amount.

    I totally agree that the situation has created hardships for many people. Here in Colima, there is no problem. We get supplied by sea. I made two trips to Guadalajara this week. And made sure my tank was filled before leaving Colima. There were an incredible amount of gas tankers heading to Guadalajara from Manzanillo. I needed to make a trip from the far west side of the city to the far eastern edge of Tlaquepaque, a 45-minute trip one way. We had no problem getting Uber service and passed a number of stations pumping gas on the east side, no lines.

    There might be a better way to handle the problem. But something needed to be done and hopefully the problem is resolved quickly.


    1. Gerard: You hit the nail on the head in your penultimate sentence. “There might be a better way to handle the problem.” What that way is, I do not know, but shutting the pipelines is not the solution.

      I think your positive attitude toward this is, in part, due to your living where the problem is minimal. Come up where I am, and see how it feels. It’s become very grave, plus I don’t see how it will solve the problem in the long term. When the pipelines get turned on again, which they will, the thefts will resume.


      1. Felipe, I have family in Guadalajara, one son and one daughter with my nietos, in-laws and many nieces and nephews. They have been dealing with this for over a week. I spent 4 days there this past week. I saw and felt the problem first hand.

        And again, the largest share of the theft isn’t by the huachicoleros tapping the pipelines (although not insignificant) it is from within PEMEX itself. Hopefully, unlike in past administrations, the people responsible, powerful they may be, are held accountable. Romero Deschamps, PEMEX union boss, the slimy bastard, had already tried to cover his butt by siding with AMLO but has since sought an amparo and made himself scarce. Several high-ranking officials of PEMEX are already under arrest. SAT and Hacienda are going after the gas stations that were in on the scam. They are not getting deliveries. Just stations that can show legal purchases with valid invoices.

        Hopefully, things will improve shortly. I have enough optimism that there is a threshold of negative economic consequences that AMLO won’t go past. If it continues as is, there will be big problems with the populace.

        BTW, have you seen the reports that the Gringos NOB are worried about getting enough avocados for their Super Bowl parties? Not like they’re concerned about the livelihood of the avocado industry here.


        1. A lawyer in Washington, D.C., well-respected in the profession, asked me if the gas crisis in Mexico was caused by a lack of production in Venezuela. I guess all of us south of the border look the same.

          I’ve taken to using Uber or walking to preserve what remains in my gas tank after its Dec. 31 fill. Yesterday’s Uber driver surprised with his comment “Trump is much better president than AMLO will ever be.” And they say Mexicans don’t like Trump.


          1. Ms. Shoes: The Venezuela line is a hoot. As for Uber, we ain’t got no Uber up here where I live. I suspect we’ll be looking more at taxis and combis in the upcoming week. As for Mexicans not liking Trump, I suspect there are more smart Mexicans than some believe. Along with your Uber driver, I know of at least two other Mexicans who are Trump fans. Me and you.


            1. In the past three months, I have run into four Mexican neighbors who like Trump. Their usual refrain is “He is a strong leader; just like AMLO.” I have doubts about that comparison. But that is what they say. For the most part, my Mexican neighbors do not give a hoot about Trump.

              AMLO should take a leaf from the Reagan playbook. He is interested in fighting corruption. Everyone agrees that two of the hotbeds of corruption in Mexico are the oil and education industries. Try to fix corruption there is a pipe dream without radical reform. How about firing the lot and bringing in a new crew — with the promise if the new lot starts mucking about, prison would be the next stop.


          2. I have yet to find any Mexican that cares for Trump. And I know a lot of Mexicans in all walks of life. Some people might say Salinas was better than Lopez Portillo or Calderon was better than EPN. Doesn’t really mean they cared for any of them. More like one is worse than the other.


                1. Gerard: Truth is, and I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but between around 2001 and 2006, about all you had to do to become a Mexican citizen was ask. I did it in 2005, and the process was no more complicated than the annual renewal of my resident visa. No tests, no nada. Presto! I wuz a Mexican. It’s been fun. And you’re right, it’s considerably more difficult now. Got no idea what caused that window of easy opportunity. Ms Shoes, if memory serves, did it in 2006.

                  As for walls, Mexico sorely needs one on its southern border. And the U.S. sorely needs one on its southern border too.


          3. Ms. Shoes P.S.: Actually, my wife is on board with Trump. Of course, that is due to my explaining the hows and whys of the Blond Bomber’s rise to power, something few Mexicans have access to, i.e. the truth.


        2. Gerard: You just keep on proving my point. All you say is correct. And closing the pipelines does squat to correct the real issues. It just creates problems, often severe, for the citizens. I’m glad you’re optimistic AMLO will come to his senses. A sensible person would not have dreamed up this hare-brained approach in the first place.

          Yeah, I did see the Gringos are worried about their avocados. Let ’em fret, I say.


  4. Only 20% of the theft was coming from the pipelines. Using pipas to deliver gas is 14 times more expensive than the pipelines. The amount of damage to the Mexican people by the desabasto exceeds exponentially the losses caused by the Huachicoleros. And here the government suggests that people walk, ride bikes, or take public transportation.

    During the campaign, AMLO urged that a referendum be held every two years to vote him out of office. I say, let’s vote him off the island right now.


  5. I think I have been given a hint about posting too prolifically. I would prefer, if you’d be so kind, to simply say ¡ya basta! You won’t hurt my feelings!


    1. Gerard: Actually, no. You’ve dug too deeply for hidden meaning. But this is a good spot to mention something I’ve been wondering about. I occasionally get commenters from the other side of the fence, so to speak, like you, and about 99.9 percent of the time they eventually get to the point where they explode and start spewing reams of expletives. So I block them, and we never hear from them again. Sad.

      I keep waiting for you to get to that point … but you haven’t … yet. Kudos. Tip of the sombrero. But I wonder if that time will come. I would prefer not.


  6. I guess I must belong to the 00.1%. If I would ever get so angry that I felt like cursing then I simply would stop posting. But nothing I have read on your blog has ever angered me. I have shaken my head at some of the nonsense but I would never spew reams of expletives! What would be the point of doing that? I occasionally make some small jabs but I don’t think I have offended anyone.

    Actually I’ll just cool my jets on the political stuff. I found your blog when I was searching for photos of your area. You have a nice eye and you write well so I began to visit. We rarely agree on much aside from the beauty of your part of México but being a visitor to your blog is in a way like visiting your home and I would never disrespect anyone in their own home.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mexico will always have chickens. This reminds me of what a Cuban friend said: “The feral chicken is the ultimate counterrevolutionary. They can catch one or two and kill and eat them, but there are always more to take their place.” They can never control or eradicate them.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Felipe, first the important stuff. As a teenager working in the summer for my stepdad in remodeling houses we often packed egg sandwiches for lunch. Yum! Now, regarding the gas crisis, the stations here in Gringolandia have also been affected. However, I personally have not. My two feet take me everywhere I want to go. As for presidents, many of them do stupid things in their first weeks in office. Think about Clinton tying up LAX air traffic for hours because he needed a haircut. Not defending AMLO, just saying not uncommon for first timers to not completely think things through.


  9. Your title “The AMLO Sandwich” reminded me of calling Dust Bowl refugee camps “Hoovervilles” back during the Depression. I can imagine you going to the kitchen to get yourself another “AMLO sandwich.”

    On a more serious note, the gas thievery issue is just one aspect of Mexico’s most serious problem, corruption. It corrodes society at so many levels and makes everybody poorer.


    1. Creigh: How right you are. Corruption is rampant, and it creates a world of problems. How it’s ever going to be brought under control is a mystery. It goes back centuries in Latin America.

      Oddly enough, one of Mexico’s most famous examples, low-level bribery, is something I’ve never encountered in the years I’ve been here. Never had to grease the palms of any government official to get something done. The one time, my first year, that I offered something unsolicited, it was refused! Never done it since.


  10. The question in my mind is whether AMLO’s goal is to stop theft or gain control of that revenue stream for his party? When he said he did not seek personal enrichment, the outgoing president had to cover his face so the smirk would not be seen.


  11. Oddly enough is right! I hadn’t been in the country the very first time for 15 minutes before I contributed to the the aduana mexicana’s extra-official fund.

    But that small-time stuff has been rapidly diminishing over the past 20 or so years. I think the end of the PRI’s grip on power in 2000 helped reduce a lot of that nonsense. Employees at the ayuntamiento level are far less inclined to shake someone down for the little stuff. Different story if you need the boss (political appointees) to sign off on something. It’s the crookedness on higher levels that keeps us from progressing more rapidly. Luckily, we’re not dealing with the PRIAN thieves at the top for the next six years. A ver qué pasa.


      1. Corruption in the U.S. is also, I think, mostly a problem at the higher levels, by people wearing the whitest of collars. In relation to your analogy of taking the money out of banks to prevent theft there, an interesting book was William Black’s account of the Savings & Loan scandal of the ’80s, “The Best Way To Rob A Bank Is To Own One.”

        Good to hear that low-level corruption is diminishing. Hopefully, people will stop tolerating it at higher levels too.


        1. Creigh: I was amused yesterday to read an online column from a foreign newspaper about our gasoline issue in which the very same analogy of closing banks was used. It’s an accurate comparison.

          Yes, I’ve heard of Black’s book. Never read it, however.

          There will always be corruption, both high and low, of course, because that’s what humans do. Keeping it to a low roar is the best we can ever do. I think the roar is far lower in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, or any Latino nation, for that matter.


  12. A fellow once told me that Mexico is much more democratic than the U.S. In the U.S. you need a lot of money to bribe officials, but in Mexico, even the poorest peon could bribe someone.


    1. Señor Gill: We are democratic. We have no hanging chads. We have a poorly informed electorate, which explains why we have the president we now have. It’s an imperfect world in which we live.


  13. Corruption is fueled by long terms in office or government positions. The longer someone is in power, or in a appointed position, the more likely there will be corruption. I like to vote everyone out of office after 2 terms no matter who they are! Corruption in the police, and public officials ran rampant in the U. S. For many years.
    AMLO seems a little naive.


    1. Señor Davis: A little naive, yes, but I think it’s worse than that. And, unfortunately, from what I’ve read, the Mexican president has pretty wide powers, moreso than in the U.S. Let’s hope we make it through the next six years intact.


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