Roadblocks, protests and occasionally violent clashes with police continue to occur across Mexico. Fuel supply group G500, which supplies most gasoline stations in Mexico, have closed more than 1,000 gas stations in their group, with a further 1,800 slated for closure tomorrow if the situation does not improve. G500 stated that conditions are unfit to continue operations, and will resume only when the government can assure the safety of their employees. This due to the wave of acts of malicious vandalism and gas station occupations which are part of growing demonstrations all over Mexico due to rising fuel prices.
There are reports of roadblocks and demonstrations across Mexico, including on incident of protesters throwing stones at police officers, and being met by teargas. I report from Teotihuacan – one mile from the Pyramid of the Sun, where our convoy has been unable to either obtain fuel for our vehicles, or proceed as planned toward Puebla due to protesters blocking the roads.
Here is a brief breakdown of events so far:
Mexico’s finance ministry announced on December 27th that fuel prices around the country would go up by between 14% and 20% at the beginning of the new year. The house of representatives (Diputados) and the senate of Mexico approved a 20% increase in a new tax called IEPS (Impuesto Especial sobre Producción y Servicios) on Gasoline. On December the 28th, this directly led to many Pemex Gas stations refusing the sale of gasoline or curtailing the amount sold to many drivers. This resulted in rumours that station owners wanted to wait until the fuel was more expensive. As these rumours took hold, they caused a collective buying-panic, and led to mass buyouts of fuel from Pemex stations across Mexico.
In 2013 President Enrique Peña Nieto announced a price-liberalization scheme on gasoline, part of the landmark energy reform would “generate more energy, more cheaply for all Mexicans.” The protesters taking to the streets feel that the president has reneged on his promises and is cashing in on the back of the people.
Immediately after the price rise announcement on the 27th, the leaders of the opposition Party the Democratic Revolution and conservative National Action Party criticized the move and blamed the president for the resultant social instability and inflation. A PRD spokesman called for the Mexican people to take to the streets in a “peaceful revolution” against “a lying and treacherous government.”
Protests began to spread on the 2nd January to 16 of the 30 states of Mexico. Some protesters began to take the tolls at private highways, allowing drivers to pass for free. Other protesters occupied fuel stations and allowed drivers to fill their tanks for free. Protesters in Mexicali created huge model rat-traps and placed them outside of politician’s residences that voted for the increase in the tax.
Speaking to the Washington post, George Baker, publisher of Mexico-focused energy website, stated that “There’s a sense that Mexico is rich in petroleum and a sense that all the citizens are entitled to some sort of shareholder benefit,”
We were surprised to see riot gear clad police officers with riot shields stationed yesterday at short intervals all around the Plaza de la Constitución at the center of Mexico City. We have reports from Oaxaca and Puebla, where gas shortages have been widespread social and workers’ groups and Uber drivers have joined the protests.
Whilst Bram Van Leeuwen of The Slow Dutchman reports from La Paz, Baja that protests are friendly and proceeding an amicable manner, in Guadalajara, protesters blocked one of the main avenues of the city with their cars, while some of the protests turned violent, with rioters throwing stones to the officers, resulting in the protests being teargassed by police. The highway connecting Mexico City with Toluca, the capital of Mexico state, was blocked by protestors with signs stating, “No more gasolinazos.”
As I write, two burned out cars sit atop a flatbed truck outside our window. Police SUV pickups are speeding past on on the road outside, ferrying black balaclava-clad riot police officers standing in the flatbeds across the city. More as the situation develops.
Above: Roadblocks in La Paz. Credit: Bram van Leeuwen