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Mexico: Three dead as protests over higher gas prices intensify

A police officer and two suspected looters have died while hundreds have been arrested

The protests and riots in Mexico, triggered by a 20% spike in gas prices, have claimed three lives this week. On Wednesday a police officer was killed in Mexico City. On Thursday two suspected looters were shot dead on the streets in the city of Veracruz, according to Efe news agency.

One of the victims in the city of Veracruz.
One of the victims in the city of Veracruz. AP

In the five days since the unrest began, Mexican police have arrested more than 600 people.

In late December the Mexican government announced it would begin to deregulate gas prices, which had previously set by the state. On January 1, when the first stage of new policy came into effect, the price of gasoline at pumps shot up by 20.1% and diesel costs spiked 16.5%, sparking widespread unrest.

The situation in Mexico City was calmer on Thursday, but the chaos increased in other regions. According to Enrique Solana, President of the National Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, some 800 small and medium businesses and 250 large stores have suffered damage nationwide.

The police officer who died on Wednesday in Mexico City was hit by a car while he tried to stop a robbery at a gas station, Mexican police said on Thursday. Police also said they had arrested 106 people in the capital and deployed 9,000 extra officers.

A man in Mexico City protests against the hike in gas prices.
A man in Mexico City protests against the hike in gas prices.

In the State of Mexico, more than 430 people have been arrested for acts of vandalism, police say.

In the port city of Veracruz, two people were shot dead during riots that paralyzed the popular tourist destination. The shooters have yet to be identified, according to Efe. Local business leaders added that over 100 shops had been targets of looting and called for federal law enforcement agencies and the army to be brought in, city damage to the tune of €4.4 million.

In Ixmiquilpan in the central state of Hidalgo, police used tear gas on crowds, but failed to disperse protesters who were throwing rocks. According to the local secretary of security, gun shots were heard. Eight civilians and five police officers were injured, according to the same source, although it was not clear if those injuries resulted from gunfire.

The protests prompted Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to make a televised appeal for calm on Wednesday. He said the decision to increase the price at the pumps was related to the increase in global oil prices. He said that although it would be a “difficult change” it was necessary for economic stability.

Business leaders in Veracruz called for the army to be called in to restore order

The full liberalization of gas prices was initially scheduled for 2018, but the Mexican government opted to start the process a year earlier.

Besides the increase in oil prices, “the uncertainty about the arrival of Donald Trump and the future of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the depreciation of the peso, raising the minimum wage and rising electricity costs,” all also add to Mexico’s economic concerns, said Gabriela Siller, director of economic analysis at Banco Base late last year.

English version by Alyssa McMurtry.

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