Running on empty

True story accompanying image

A steep surge in petrol prices in Guatemala in 2008 took its toll on large tracts of the population, and pushed the sale of fuel onto the black market.

Transparency International’s chapter in Guatemala, Acción Ciudadana, received around 25 phone calls from citizens living near the Mexican border who suspected that some truck drivers were smuggling cheap petrol into Guatemala from Mexico. The callers believed that the drivers had been paying border officials bribes to avoid customs duties.

At the same time, there were widespread media reports that cheap petrol was being sold at makeshift petrol stations on the outskirts of Guatemalan cities. The owners of legitimate petrol stations claimed they were losing business to these illegal suppliers.

Acción Ciudadana passed on these concerns to the National Customs Office, who convened a series of working groups to look into the matter. As a result, both the Guatemalan and Mexican authorities implemented stricter customs controls to monitor commercial vehicles crossing the border. The Guatemalan tax authorities also initiated an investigation into the alleged misconduct. Since this time Acción Ciudadana has received no further complaints about petrol imports.


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