Across the country, Mexico has broken out into protests and looting in response to Sunday’s gasolinazo – a 20 percent raise in gas prices. This also comes after severe gas shortages as Mexico’s government-run oil company Pemex had trouble supplying stations due to oil refining problems.
The Standard’s Joy Diaz speaks to us from Chihuahua, Mexico, roughly four hours south of El Paso. She says the city streets are almost dead – public transportation is not running and few cars are out on the road.
She says there are no protesters marching in the streets in Chihuahua, instead the nature of the protest is quite different.
“A group … took Pemex headquarters in Mexico City … and what they’re trying to do is to say to the government ‘The increase in gas prices is unacceptable,’” Diaz says. “The other part of the protest is that they are not letting the trucks that distribute gasoline throughout the country – they’re not letting those trucks get out.”
For decades, Mexico subsidized gas prices. Now gas costs around $4.00 USD or 73 pesos. The minimum wage in the country just rose to 73 pesos a day.
“You have to work a whole full day to buy one gallon of gasoline in Mexico right now,” Diaz says.
But Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is saying things could be much worse.
“My responsibility is to guard the economic stability of our country,” he said in a recent press conference. “The cost of not doing so would be much more painful and much more costly than the measures we’ve taken.”
Peña Nieto says he will not bring down the gas prices. Treasury Secretary Jose Antonio Meade said Thursday morning that the country is driving down subsidies. If Mexico didn’t implement the price hike, he said, it could cost the country $10 billion.
Mexicans aren’t reassured. Diaz spoke to one bank teller as she was walking home because there was no transportation.
“People are scared to run out of gas. Some are not even showing up for work because they’ve already run out of gas,” Andrea Jara said. “I believe freedom of expression is a good thing and I’m glad people are protesting, but I wish it didn’t affect others. That’s the problem.”
The hike looks like the beginning of harsher times to come, Diaz says. Some people says the protests resemble those in 1968. The government response to those protests was to bring out the military and kill student protesters.
“Because protesters are also asking for President Enrique Peña Nieto to step down, what some people are saying is the instability, the destabilization of the country is such that they can see something like ‘68 happening because they don’t foresee the president stepping down.”
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.