Mexico army destroys explosives found outside refinery

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Friday he would not be intimidated by explosives and a threat found near a refinery in the central state of Guanajuato.

Guanajuato is one of Mexico's hot spots for massive fuel theft, which Lopez Obrador has tried to combat by deploying the military.

"We're not going to fall for any provocation," Lopez Obrador said. "We are not going to pay attention to any act of intimidation."

The administration had initially characterized the explosives found inside a pickup truck parked outside a refinery in the city of Salamanca as fake. But the army later confirmed they were real even though they did not present a danger. It did not explain why.

An army spokesperson said late Thursday that soldiers safely destroyed the explosives.

A message allegedly from the leader of a fuel theft ring in Guanajuato threatened Lopez Obrador and was found hung some distance from the refinery. It appeared to reference the explosives.

Drug cartels have long employed such strategies to intimidate rivals and authorities, hanging banners from overpasses and leaving menacing notes.

Fuel theft in Mexico takes place on an industrial scale and is extremely lucrative. Last month, the government reported that 14,894 illegal taps were found on pipelines in 2018. In January, the government cut off the flow of several key pipelines around the country creating a temporary shortage that caused long lines at gas stations for days.

Soldiers and marines now patrol pipelines across the country.

The apparent threat Thursday raised new questions about Lopez Obrador's safety. He has dissolved the equivalent of the U.S. Secret Service and again dismissed the idea that he needed more security.

"He who fights for justice has nothing to fear," Lopez Obrador said.