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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 February, 2004, 08:13 GMT
Colombia cracks down on oil theft
By Jeremy McDermott
BBC correspondent in Colombia

Oil refinery
Chemicals added to petrol would make it unusable in cars
Up to 7,000 barrels of petrol a day are stolen from Colombia's oil pipelines.

Right-wing paramilitaries are believed to be responsible for most of the thefts, using the proceeds to fund their war on the Marxist guerrillas.

They siphon off petrol and other petroleum derivatives and then sell the fuel illegally.

The Colombian authorities are now cracking down on the problem which reportedly costs the country's economy $75m a year.

Colombia's main oil pipeline, which stretches across the northern half of the country, has so many holes in it it is known as the flute.

The holes are made by what is called the petrol cartel that sells the stolen fuel at bargain basement prices.

Much of the petrol cartel is controlled by the illegal right-wing paramilitaries.


The Colombian government is tired, not just of losing much needed revenue, but of having it stolen by the illegal armies in the 40 year civil conflict.

They are looking for a solution and may just have found it.

Research has indicated that the petrol could be mixed with a series of chemicals at the refineries making it unusable for vehicles.

Then once it arrives at the export terminal the chemicals can be removed in a simple operation and the petrol then loaded onto tankers.

The government is, at the moment, costing the idea, but oil experts believe the price will be significantly less than the $75m earned by the paramilitaries.

Colombian oil region in crisis
13 Jul 01  |  Media reports
Country profile: Colombia
14 Feb 04  |  Country profiles
Q&A: Colombia's civil conflict
06 May 03  |  Americas

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