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Four killed in continued Mexico unrest over fuel price hike

6 January 2017 14:30

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At least four people have been killed in Mexico and hundreds of others have been detained amid continuing unrest and looting over raised fuel prices.

An official with the state prosecutor in the eastern province of Veracruz, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said late Thursday that two people were found dead near some looted shops in the port city of Veracruz, the province’s largest city. He said no suspects had not been identified in the killings, yet.

Earlier, officials had reported that a driver, fleeing police in Veracruz, ran over a bystander, killing him.

Elsewhere, in the capital, Mexico City, a police officer lost his life after he was hit by a rushing car while he was attempting to stop a theft at a gas station on Wednesday.

Crisis unfolding

Public anger was recently 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.

Meanwhile, gunfire erupted as angry Mexicans clashed with police in the city of Ixmiquilpan, in the central-eastern province of Hidalgo. Five police officers and eight civilians sustained injuries in the incident. However, it was not clear whether the injuries were caused by gunshots.

According to officials, at least 1,000 stores and companies have so far been looted or vandalized and over 700 people have been nabbed for looting, 529 of them in the capital.

Angry Mexicans have so far blocked a dozen fuel stations and highways in protest against the government’s decision in raising the fuel prices. The blockades are affecting gas distribution terminals, seaports, and shopping centers.

The country’s Communications and Transport Department has already warned that it would cancel permits for any trucker who has had a role in previous blockades or who participates in future ones.

People riot against the rise in fuel prices outside of the Palacio de Gobierno in Monterrey Nuevo Leon, Mexico, January 5, 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.

“I know that allowing gasoline to rise to its international price is a difficult change, but as president, my job is to precisely make difficult decisions now, in order to avoid worse consequences in the future,” he said in a televised address on Thursday.

“Keeping gas prices artificially low would mean taking money away from the poorest Mexicans, and giving it to those who have the most,” he said.

The Mexican government expects a price competition to emerge as private suppliers, and not just the state-run energy company 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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