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A police officer watches as a truck blocks a highway in Tlaxcala. A police officer watches as a truck blocks a highway in Tlaxcala. excélsior

Widespread blockades as protests continue

Anger over fuel price increases continues for the third day in a row

Protesters continued for the third day in a row to express their displeasure over Sunday’s big fuel price increase, blocking highways, occupying gas stations and even trashing them.

As of this afternoon, Federal Police were reporting 12 blockades in the states of Sonora, Puebla, Morelos, Chihuahua, Jalisco, Mexico City, Michoacán, Hidalgo, State of México and Querétaro, while the newspaper Milenio counted 18 states in which there were protests against gasoline and diesel price increases ranging from 15%-20% that went into effect Sunday.

The newspaper El Universal reported this morning that as many as 2,000 people were participating in individual marches and blockades as anger continues over the gasolinazo, as the increase is known.

Some of the protests have been violent.

In Tapachula, Chiapas, a group of people believed to be teachers’ college students vandalized a gas station, giving away gasoline and motor oil to motorists. Before leaving, the youths trashed the pumps.

A similar situation was reported in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo: a group of youths gave away fuel while a second group detained a tanker truck carrying gasoline for several minutes.

In Sinaloa, eight people were arrested after they attempted to block tanker trucks from leaving a Pemex facility in Mazatlán. In Los Mochis, a contingent protested the new gasoline prices while riding bicycles.

In Guadalajara there was a confrontation between protesting citizens and police. The protesters tried to repel the police by throwing stones and bottles, but the latter retaliated by using tear gas. The state Attorney General’s office reported that five arrests had been made.

In the state of Puebla there were two protests, one by citizens and a second by some 100 Uber drivers, who demanded an increase in their tariffs.

The only state without a significant protest was Tabasco.

One of the highways worst affected was Mexico City-Querétaro, which was blocked in both directions. It was the third day for a blockade on the highway, which left traffic backed up for several kilometers.

Chihuahua saw the largest number of highway protests, with one highway completely closed, five that were partially blocked and the presence of protesters on another three.

More than 500 transportation workers blocked highways by stopping traffic intermittently at at least five locations in the state of Tlaxcala and warned they wouldn’t budge until the federal government replied to their concerns and agreed to drop fuel prices.

Opponents to the gasolinazo have included private citizens, politicians, transportation workers, taxi drivers, shop owners and others, who warned that the prices of products and services will have to increase due to higher fuel costs.

Bus companies in Morelos have already gone ahead and increased their fares from 6.50 pesos to 10, a move that the local Transport Secretariat deemed illegal.

Interior Secretariat officials said they have kept tabs on all blockades and protests against the increase in prices, and warned that while the public’s right to assembly and protest will be respected, highway and road blockades will not be tolerated.

The federal government has defended the increases on the grounds that subsidies have maintained prices that do not reflect the true cost of the products. It is in the process of preparing for the full liberalization of gasoline and diesel pricing, which will take place beginning in March and conclude at the end of the year.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp), Reforma (sp), Excélsior (sp)

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