MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s new president is calling on his countrymen to help battle against fuel thefts, as long lines spread to gas stations in Mexico City.

The fuel scarcity arose because of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s decision to close government pipelines riddled with illegal fuel taps drilled by thieves.

The fight against $3 billion per year in fuel thefts has become the first big domestic battle for the leftist president since he took office on Dec. 1.

Lopez Obrador said Wednesday: “We are asking the people to help us not be defeated by criminals.”

A government called on motorists to avoid panic purchases as part of a campaign “to rescue the nation’s sovereignty.”

The government has been distributing fuel with tanker trucks; Lopez Obrador said the problem would be solved soon.