Gasolinazo protests swell south of the border

Protests against the gasiloinazo, the gasoline price hike mandated by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in the wake of the partial privatization of the Mexican state oil monopoly Pemex. continue to flare, with the death toll at six as authorities crack down.

We follow developments through a series of stories from teleSUR English, starting with a story on events through Sunday:

A new wave of protests against a hike in gas prices in Mexico began Sunday, as the nationwide mobilizations enter its second week and spread to at least 25 states.

Because of the protests, that are blocking highways throughout Mexico, freeways in California are being affected and some are again being closed Sunday night. The southbound 5 and 805 freeways which lead to the San Ysidro Port of Entry are being closed, according to the California Highway Patrol. Cars that are traveling to Mexico will have to go via 905 Freeway to the Otay Mesa Port of Entry.

On Saturday, thousands marched across 15 of 31 states in the country and the Federal District. Among the largest demonstrations were 20,000 protesters who gathered in Puebla, 5,000 in Guadalajara and 1,000 in Tapachula.

Since the protests broke out beginning on Jan. 1, clashes between police and protesters and looting have left six people dead, 1,500 arrested, 420 businesses affected and several roads blocked.

The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto announced in the last week of December that the price of gasoline would spike by 20 percent and diesel by 16 percent. Peña Nieto has said that the price hikes are the only option available and that the cost changes respond to international prices and are not a result of his neoliberal reforms.

Protesters take over the border

Another story highlights one of the more spectacular actions:

Chanting “Peña out,” tens of thousands of protesters are demanding the resignation of the nation’s most unpopular president in a quarter of a century.

Hundreds of protesters against a 20 percent gas hike took over the U.S. border crossing in Tijuana, letting cars pass without customs checks, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Mexico to once again demand the resignation of embattled President Enrique Peña Nieto over the so-called “gasolinazo” price hike that has hit the country’s poorest communities.

The protests were largely peaceful but police fired tear gas in Tijuana and the nearby town of Rosarito, where demonstrations were most tense, but the police repression in Tijuana was not enough to stop the action, which targetted El Chaparral, the border crossing into California, according to Radio Zapote.

The biggest actions took place in the country’s three main cities: Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, but mass rallies have also been registered in the central states of Puebla, Queretaro, Morelos as well as the northern territories of Chihuahua and Baja California.

Chanting “Peña out,” many of the protesters gathered in the cities main boulevards. In Mexico City, people marched from the iconic Independence monument toward the main Zocalo square.

In Rosarito, Baja California, police beat and kicked protesters, tweeted reporter Andrea Noel.

A church calls for moderation

The subject of the third story:

In response to the unrest, the Episcopal Church has called on the government, legislators and political parties to “reconsider” the gasolinazo and resolve the conflict “intelligently and creatively.”

In a conference held Monday, the Secretary-General of the Mexican Episcopal Church, Alfonso Miranda Guardiola, warned the government that “the disposition to build peace and the common good is the best way to strengthen our unity.”

The National Commission of Human Rights, CNDH, echoed the sentiments of the church, arguing economic security should not come at the cost of social security.

In the communique, released Monday, the CDNH said “the economic stability of the country is important but not at the cost of social security.”

While criticizing the “looting” and “vandalism,” the group defended the demonstrators right to “freedom of expression and social protest.”

The human rights organization ended its statement, calling upon Nieto’s government to “design and implement measures to control spending that will effectively combat corruption and impunity … without directly affecting the economy of the people and their families.”

Meanwhile, social organization Somos Mas filed a complaint Tuesday with the attorney general’s office, accusing those responsible for the gasolinazo of “committing illicit acts that threaten the Mexican people.”

And the economy suffers as inflation rises

With the gasolinazo certain to make things worseAnd fourth and final story, posted today:

Mexico’s December annual inflation rose at the fastest pace in two years, data showed on Monday, boosting chances the central bank will raise interest rates again at a time when prices are expected to be further fanned by a hike in fuel costs.

Consumer prices rose 3.36 percent from December 2015, national statistics agency INEGI said on Monday, the highest rate since December 2014, and above the central bank’s 3 percent target.

The figure was below the 3.4 percent analysts forecast in a Reuters poll but up from 3.31 percent in November.

Consumer prices should rise faster after a double-digit hike in gasoline prices went into effect this month, some analysts said. The increase has spurred protests and blockades throughout the country.

“We expect a much more accentuated rise in January,” CitiBanamex said in a note, citing energy prices and a weak peso. The bank said inflation would surge beyond 4.6 percent on an annual basis.


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