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Hundreds arrested for looting in Mexico amid fuel price hike

5 January 2017 13:32



Mexican authorities say they have arrested hundreds of people for looting stores across Mexico amid unrest over a sharp increase in gasoline prices.

According to a statement by the National Association of Self-Service and Department Stores, so far 79 shops have been looted and access to over 170 others have been blocked, mainly in the state of Mexico, where the capital is located, the central state of Hidalgo, and the western state of Michoacan.

According to a late Wednesday statement by the government of the state of Mexico, police detained more than 200 people for “various acts of vandalism and thefts at shops” in six municipalities, including the capital, Mexico City, where at least 20 people were nabbed.

It added that some of the individuals taken into custody were arrested while they were at the stores, attempting to commit thefts and acts of vandalism “under the pretext of protesting the liberalization of the price of gasoline.”

Public anger was aroused when the Mexican government ended regulated prices for gasoline and diesel and increased their prices over the weekend by up to 20 percent, which is considered unjustified by some people in the oil-rich country.

According to federal police, some 20 new protests occurred across the country on Wednesday. Angry Mexicans have so far blocked a dozen fuel stations in the country, prompting the state-run oil firm Pemex to warn that the blockades had resulted in a critical situation in at least three states.

People pick up toys as they loot a store during a protest in the port of Veracruz, Mexico, on January 4, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The government argues that the hike conforms to a policy of the gradual liberalization of fuel prices. The policy was initially planned to be adopted in 2018, but the government decided to launch it sooner.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto has defended his unpopular decision to hike up fuel prices, arguing that the move was necessary due to a rise in global oil prices. “If this decision had not been taken, the effects and consequences would have been far more painful,” he claimed.

He did try to allay public anxiety, however, by saying that he understood the people’s outrage over the measure.

President Pena Nieto has already urged protesters to avoid blocking gas stations.

The Mexican government expects a price competition along the road as private suppliers, and not just the Pemex, are planned to start importing gasoline into the country.

Mexico imports over half of the 34 million gallons of gasoline it needs on a daily basis.

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