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Electricity theft bleeds power grid dry, officials say
ABCNews15 ^ | AP

Posted on 01/24/2005 1:13:36 PM PST by hsmomx3

PHOENIX (AP) -- They look like cobwebs or huge balls of spaghetti hanging from electric poles across Mexico, gigantic clusters of illegal electric lines known as diablitos, or "little devils."

Dentist Benjamin Rodriguez has one hanging outside his window in the Xochimilco neighborhood of Mexico City. Like an evil parasite, it makes his lights flicker and stops his dental drill. Occasionally, the transformer across the street explodes.

"Six or seven times a year, the power just goes out completely," Rodriguez said.

"You call the power company and they come and cut all the illegal lines and the next day they're back up."

Mexico's Energy Department says electricity thieves are bleeding the country's power grid dry, causing millions of dollars of losses, starting fires and crippling the country's efforts to modernize.

Now the government has launched a crackdown on the thieves, installing tamper-proof meters and running ads urging people to report theft.

"To the devil with diablitos!" say TV commercials as cartoon devils with electrical cords for tails prowl the streets of a darkened neighborhood.

In central Mexico alone, the amount of electricity lost, mainly through diablitos, rose 8.7 percent from September 2003 to September 2004, according to Luis de Pablo, director of Central Light and Power. In the rest of the country, it rose 1.3 percent.

In Mexico state, where squatters have built entire cities around the capital, about 300,000 houses are using stolen power, according to the state Electrification Board.

That's equivalent to a city the size of Tucson, and the figure doesn't count the thousands of diablitos serving taco stands, CD sellers and other street vendors.

"It really hurts us, because that money could be going into infrastructure," said Gerardo Lerma, a spokesman for Central Light and Power.

Diablitos were cited as the possible cause of a fire that swept through a shantytown in Juarez in 2003, killing four women, and one that destroyed a public market in Durango in May. On Dec. 2, two firefighters were injured battling a blaze caused by a diablito at a recycling warehouse in the Mexico City suburb of San Juan Tlihuaca.

The government launched its campaign against diablitos in 2003, but honest electricity customers say it has not gone far enough. On Oct. 14, customers from Mexico state protested in front of Central Light and Power, demanding that the company take action against theft, which is inflating their electricity bills.

The illegal lines are an epidemic in low-income places like Xochimilco. Around the central plaza, street vendors have broken open ornamental lampposts and strung lines to their stands. Other lines disappear into homes.

Thieves around the plaza refused to give their names. But many said they have to use the diablitos because the government is slow to install new lines to homes and has only a few electrical outlets for street vendors.

In the past two years, Central Light and Power has installed 500,000 tamper-proof meters and 840 miles of new cable with an outer coating meant to foil electricity thieves, Lerma said.

It has also gotten 250,000 thieves to become paying customers by installing new lines to their homes, he said. Electricity theft is a federal crime but most offenders get off with a warning because overworked prosecutors can't handle the extra cases, officials say.

There is one electric meter on the pole outside the La Vega shoe store. It's connected to outlets used by four sidewalk stands, including that of video-game seller Juan Loiza.

"We use the meter and share the bill, but look at this," he said, pointing at 10 other electric lines that climb the pole like vines. "Who else is going to pay when they can just put up a line?"


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; US: Arizona
KEYWORDS: electricity; electricpower; energy; mexico; powergrid; thirdworld
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1 posted on 01/24/2005 1:13:37 PM PST by hsmomx3
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To: hsmomx3
Mexico reaps what it sows.
2 posted on 01/24/2005 1:16:40 PM PST by E. Pluribus Unum (Drug prohibition laws help fund terrorism.)
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To: hsmomx3

Apparently the voltage isn't high enough on these feader lines.


3 posted on 01/24/2005 1:18:18 PM PST by Voltage
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To: hsmomx3

distribute at 4160 or 16kv and this wouldn't be a problem for long


4 posted on 01/24/2005 1:22:14 PM PST by SShultz460
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To: hsmomx3

I'm betting it's only a matter of time before Mexico starts stringing wire and cables to US locations for free electricity.


5 posted on 01/24/2005 1:23:02 PM PST by theDentist (Jerry Springer: PBS for White Trash)
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To: hsmomx3

Instead of just cutting the illegal lines, why don't they follow them to the culprits, and put on the cuffs?


6 posted on 01/24/2005 1:27:47 PM PST by Brilliant
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To: Voltage

Some amazing electrical discharge photos/video:

http://205.243.100.155/frames/longarc.htm


7 posted on 01/24/2005 1:28:07 PM PST by steve86
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To: hsmomx3

Can someone explain to me why Mexico and the Mexicans are now, and always have been, so decrepit and backward? It is beyond my comprehension, given that they've lived next door to the greatest nation in the history of the planet for over two hundred years. You'd think they'd have picked up some good ideas along the way from their neighbor to the north, rather than the worst behaviors of their screwed up neighbors to their south. What's the basis of their problem? Inquiring minds want to know...


8 posted on 01/24/2005 1:32:03 PM PST by bowzer313
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To: biblewonk

Don't-try-this-at-home ping.


9 posted on 01/24/2005 1:32:47 PM PST by newgeezer (Just my opinion, of course. Your mileage may vary.)
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To: bowzer313

Maybe it's something in the water?


10 posted on 01/24/2005 1:33:45 PM PST by newgeezer (Sarcasm content: 100.00%)
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To: hsmomx3
Mexico should deregulate it's electric market and privatize it. The problem is no one is looking out for the profits. If the electric company was private it's managers would be forced to stop the thieves and turn a profit.

This is what happens when politicians run companies instead of owners. No one is happy.
11 posted on 01/24/2005 1:36:26 PM PST by monday
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To: bowzer313

Rotten culture, perhaps? Acceptance of vices like tardiness, sloppiness and theft?

I don't know. You tell me.


12 posted on 01/24/2005 1:37:27 PM PST by broadsword (It was far beyond anything seen here before!)
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To: BearWash

I built a 7 foot high 10 million volt tesla coil. :-)

Neighbors thought UFOs had landed.


13 posted on 01/24/2005 1:39:31 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: bowzer313
Can someone explain to me why Mexico and the Mexicans are now, and always have been, so decrepit and backward? It is beyond my comprehension, given that they've lived next door to the greatest nation in the history of the planet for over two hundred years. You'd think they'd have picked up some good ideas along the way from their neighbor to the north, rather than the worst behaviors of their screwed up neighbors to their south. What's the basis of their problem? Inquiring minds want to know...

Maybe it has something to do with our open borders. Those with initiative (whether for good or for ill) run for the border. Those without take another siesta.

14 posted on 01/24/2005 1:39:33 PM PST by southernnorthcarolina (OK, Congress is back in session -- Where's my tax cuts for the rich? )
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To: RadioAstronomer

Cool! Can we string a few thousand of them along the border as bug zappers?


15 posted on 01/24/2005 1:40:58 PM PST by broadsword (It was far beyond anything seen here before!)
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To: bowzer313
"Can someone explain to me why Mexico and the Mexicans are now, and always have been, so decrepit and backward?"

That question is a separate issue. This has nothing to do with being backward, it has everything to do with being poor. I can recall a friend in the military telling me about his relatives stealing electricity in the Appalachians decades ago. The bottom line is that the poor everywhere manage by doing what ever they have to do if not making a living wage.
16 posted on 01/24/2005 1:41:15 PM PST by oldcomputerguy
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To: bowzer313

--start with the legacy of imperial Spain--ignorance, superstition, brutality, corruption,---


17 posted on 01/24/2005 1:41:38 PM PST by rellimpank (urban dwellers don' t understand the cultural deprivation of not being raised on a farm)
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To: hsmomx3

I think they would be harder to tap into if they just buried the cable.

Still, there is some poetic justice to this. Legal power consumers complaining about how illegal activity is causing them to have to pay more for their services. Well welcome to California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.

Best Regards

Sergio


18 posted on 01/24/2005 1:41:42 PM PST by Sergio (If a tree fell on a mime in the forest, would he make a sound?)
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To: bowzer313

What we have a thing called "protestant work ethics". This causes the majority to be conscious about giving a day work for a day pay. Granted, not only protestants are conscious, but that was the genesis of this cultural lack of epidemic corruption that is so pervasive in other countries.


19 posted on 01/24/2005 1:41:56 PM PST by conservlib
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To: bowzer313

"You'd think they'd have picked up some good ideas along the way from their neighbor to the north"

Oh, they have. They just move here. Problem solved.


20 posted on 01/24/2005 1:46:10 PM PST by MineralMan (godless atheist)
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To: oldcomputerguy
This has nothing to do with being backward, it has everything to do with being poor.

Bottom line is that their poverty is the result of a failed culture. Nothing else. 'Nuff said.
21 posted on 01/24/2005 1:47:04 PM PST by broadsword (It was far beyond anything seen here before!)
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To: bowzer313

Extremely, extremely corrupt government and judical system. Sorry to sound like a liberal's wet dream, but the rich really do own it all--the land, the police, the judges, etc. The poor cannot hope to aspire to anything more than being a waiter on American tourists.


22 posted on 01/24/2005 1:48:49 PM PST by Nataku X (You've heard, "Be more like Jesus." But have you ever heard, "Be more like Mohammad"?)
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To: bowzer313
"What's the basis of their problem?"

Endemic political corruption which stems from an Hispanic culture. This culture is less civic oriented and more family oriented. It causes people to mostly care only for friends and family and very little for others in the community.

This explains why it is not only acceptable for Mexican officials to be corrupt but practically expected. Lying, cheating, and stealing are somewhat acceptable ways to get ahead if it is done in the interests of ones family. The results are what may be seen not only in Latin America, but Africa, China, the Middle East, and India.

Countries with the least corruption also tend to be the most civic minded, often at the expense of personal freedom. Germany, Singapore, and Japan come immediately to mind. I suppose it's a trade off. The US falls in the middle with some traits of both.
23 posted on 01/24/2005 1:51:19 PM PST by monday
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To: conservlib

It is as if in mexico, the word "to get", and "to earn", and "to steal" are all one in the same.


24 posted on 01/24/2005 1:52:48 PM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: oldcomputerguy
"I can recall a friend in the military telling me about his relatives stealing electricity in the Appalachians decades ago. The bottom line is that the poor everywhere manage by doing what ever they have to do if not making a living wage."

Yup. My granddad went to prison for a year for making moonshine during prohibition in SE Alabama.

25 posted on 01/24/2005 1:53:45 PM PST by blam
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To: RadioAstronomer
I built a 7 foot high 10 million volt tesla coil. :-)

My Tesla coil was more conservative. The secondary was a 2 inch diameter, 30 inch long mailing tube. I spent 7 hours winding the secondary with 36 gauge magnet wire. It looked like smooth copper foil. The capacitor was built with a stack of 12" mirror tiles. Spark gap with 10d nails. Primary with some 12 gauge wire stripped from spare Romex. A 15,000 volt neon transformer was used to excite the primary. I powered it up inside an 8 X 8 foot bedroom at a friend's house. The snaky violet discharges went all the way to the walls. After days of work, the total run time was under 5 minutes. Too much RFI.

26 posted on 01/24/2005 1:55:40 PM PST by Myrddin
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To: hsmomx3

Mexico is a rather wealthy nation. What a pity it is run into the ground by the elites.


27 posted on 01/24/2005 1:57:04 PM PST by Teacher317
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To: hsmomx3

When you don't enforce the law...


28 posted on 01/24/2005 1:58:23 PM PST by RobRoy
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To: SShultz460
Use direct burial primary line. Shunt primary power line to an "inside the business/home" transformer. The secondary lines off the transformer could then be usable only by the customer who pays for it.

The direct buried primary line would be unusable to the power thieves, unless they had their own transformer, and the knowledge and tools to tap into the primary feed...Highly Unlikely!

29 posted on 01/24/2005 1:58:45 PM PST by JDoutrider
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To: Myrddin

We used tungsten alloy bolts for our spark gap and power pole transformers hooked to a copper busbar we bent into a coil with plexiglass sheet insulators. :-)

The secondary coil was wound on a cardboard form used to pour concrete bridge columns.

We too only fired it up for a short time. LOL!


30 posted on 01/24/2005 2:02:22 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: JDoutrider

thats how they do it for gas lines. ie Regulator at the meter Rarely do you see alot of gas theft.

Ammonia is a diffrent animal because of meth, you'll get idiots doing homemade hot-taps on high pressure ammonia pipelines and installing bleeders so they can steal pure ammonia


31 posted on 01/24/2005 2:03:38 PM PST by SShultz460
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To: bowzer313

I once asked that question of a cute girl from Mexico City when I was in college. I didn't get anywhere.


32 posted on 01/24/2005 2:04:17 PM PST by DannyTN
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To: All

Reminds me of a NY City story, turns out YEARS ago a "smart" landlord discovered that his power meter would operate in reverse if the wires were switched. So if you reverse the wires the meter would count down instead of up. So a landlord would run the meter in reverse a few days. A few geniuses just kept the meter running backwards and the meter read like it was creating electricity.

(they don't run backwards anymore)

In Miami, there are occasional house fires where people use jumper cables to bypass a meter which has been cut off for lack of payment.


33 posted on 01/24/2005 2:09:02 PM PST by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: longtermmemmory
The cultural problem in Mexico is relating to the society as whole which has extreme rich, and extreme poor, and very few in the middle class. I learned first hand about stories during WWII time, when there was lots of poverty and shortages of goods around the world. There was lots of reporting of hungry people stealing bread to feed their children.

Again, to give you an example that is easy to understand; say the average worker in the US makes $2000/month, and the typical rent is $1000/month; then, if the electricity cost to power your a house is $2000/month, then it is practically prohibitive for the average guy, not to mention the unemployed who have no earnings. The politicians realize that people are stealing power because they cannot afford it not because they are thieves? Hence, they look the other way, and don't prosecute the thieves.
34 posted on 01/24/2005 2:10:53 PM PST by conservlib
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To: RadioAstronomer
You clearly had more resources at your disposal. Mine was built on spare change from my lunch money.
35 posted on 01/24/2005 2:13:50 PM PST by Myrddin
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To: Myrddin; BearWash

How does a Tesla coil work? I have always been curious but never took the time to learn how to build one.


36 posted on 01/24/2005 2:22:05 PM PST by unlearner
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To: bowzer313
The answers I've seen here make me cringe. This is FreeRepublic, I thought posters were smarter than I've seen on this post.

Only one got it right, NatakuX in #22, "Extremely, extremely corrupt government and judical system."

37 posted on 01/24/2005 2:24:29 PM PST by Balding_Eagle (God has blessed Republicans with really stupid enemies.)
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To: SShultz460

Or 440 AC triple phased. Lets see who lands on their ass.


38 posted on 01/24/2005 2:27:24 PM PST by BobS
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To: hsmomx3
So, I take it, standing right in this position would be Nirvana for these folks.


39 posted on 01/24/2005 2:28:53 PM PST by Professional Engineer (I've been divided by zero.)
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To: RadioAstronomer

If those things work, then why aren't we using them?


40 posted on 01/24/2005 2:30:58 PM PST by cyborg
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Comment #41 Removed by Moderator

To: Sergio

We all know that these people use underground tunnels that they build to smuggle people and drugs into our country. I can just see them splicing thru an underground cable.


42 posted on 01/24/2005 2:32:17 PM PST by hsmomx3 (GO STEELERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
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To: unlearner
How does a Tesla coil work? I have always been curious but never took the time to learn how to build one.

It's just a high frequency step up transformer. The spark gap, capacitor and primary form a resonant circuit. The large secondary provides the step up. It is common to excite the resonant primary with something like a neon transformer.

43 posted on 01/24/2005 2:38:07 PM PST by Myrddin
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To: cyborg
If those things work, then why aren't we using them?

Actually they are similar to the high voltage circuit (flyback transformer) in a TV. The big difference is a true tesla coil uses a spark gap where your TV does not.

44 posted on 01/24/2005 2:39:24 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: DannyTN

That's when you were young and dumb, huh? Had you said what a wonderful country is she probably would have married you on Sunday morning.


45 posted on 01/24/2005 2:39:49 PM PST by B4Ranch (Don't remain seated until this ride comes to a full and complete stop! We're going the wrong way!)
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To: RadioAstronomer

Shouldn't we be looking more into these things so we can be less dependent on oil? Just wondering aloud. Don't mind me *LOL*


46 posted on 01/24/2005 2:40:31 PM PST by cyborg
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To: Myrddin

BTW, very nice coil you described. :-)


47 posted on 01/24/2005 2:41:45 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: E. Pluribus Unum

What is that supposed to mean?


48 posted on 01/24/2005 2:43:41 PM PST by justshutupandtakeit (Public Enemy #1, the RATmedia.)
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To: cyborg

People have been building these for years. Unfortunately you cannot get something from nothing. (At least at this level of physics :-))

Takes more power to run than you can "reap". :-)


49 posted on 01/24/2005 2:45:36 PM PST by RadioAstronomer
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To: hsmomx3
Many of you seem to think that it is the peon stealing from the electric collectif and that new technical modifications would solve the problem.

What is happening is that the peons are paying for their stolen electricty but not paying the electric company. It is electric company and government employees who are setting up the power taps and charging the users for doing so. They rationalize that the power comes from the public entity and they can take it and sell it.

Just check your local Mexican landscapping crews. They all think it is perfectly acceptable in the US to blow leaves out into the street because the street is a public asset.

Here, the real thieves are electric company employees and no one is going to stop them because they are related to company officials and government folks and kick back to them a portion of the peons' pesos.

50 posted on 01/24/2005 2:50:31 PM PST by Tacis (Democrats! - When You Need America Blamed Or A Pool Peed In!!)
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