Hundreds of LP gas distributors blocked about 20 roads in the greater Mexico City area on Monday after the federal government refused their demand for gas prices to be raised by 1 peso per kilo.
The disgruntled distributors, whose earnings have fallen since the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) set maximum prices for LP gas just over two months ago, used their trucks to block major arteries including the Periférico ring road, the Viaducto crosstown freeway and highways that link the capital to municipalities in neighboring México state as well as Pachuca, Hidalgo.
The blockades caused traffic chaos in Mexico City, and some angry drivers hurled abuse at the protesting gaseros.
The protest came after distributors met with Energy Ministry (SENER) officials to demand that the CRE price ceiling – implemented to prevent price gouging – be raised by 1 peso per kilo. Distributors previously went on strike when the ceiling took effect in early August.
In a statement issued after the meeting, SENER said that current prices are based on international and domestic wholesale gas prices and already allow for “sufficient profit” for distributors.
Unhappy with the response, distributors said they would seek another meeting with authorities Tuesday and threatened to close gas retailers and intensify blockades if their demand for a higher price ceiling was not met.
Outside SENER’s Mexico City headquarters, where gas distributors were holding up cardboard signs with messages such as “You hug the narco and leave the gas man without anything to eat,” protesters clashed with police after the Energy Ministry made its position known.
Distributors also used their trucks to block Insurgentes Avenue, on which the SENER headquarters are located. Video footage posted to social media showed one distributor holding a hose and threatening to douse a police officer with gas. The man, who squirted gas onto the road near police, was subsequently arrested, the Mexico City government said.
Government secretary Martí Batres condemned the man’s actions, describing them as “irresponsible.” He said the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office will determine the charges the distributor will face.
In addition to directing the CRE to set price ceilings for LP gas, the federal government created a new state-owned company to distribute gas after President López Obrador denounced gas prices that had been rising “unjustifiably” above inflation.
Gas Bienestar (Well-being Gas), a new division of the state oil company Pemex, began operations in Mexico City at the end of August.
With reports from El Universal