So Tuesday we decided to go to the tianguis in Valle, just because. We gassed up the truck and headed out. We arrived, parked the truck, and started walking toward the tianguis. (flea market). An elderly lady grabbed my arm and said “No vayas alla. Van a explotar un tanque” (Don’t go there. They are going to blow up a tank.) Looking down the road, there was a lone police vehicle with lights flashing. It seems that there had been a report that protestors were going to blow up the Pemex across the street from the tianguis. Just to be safe, we headed home early. Of course, the only way out of the town was to drive past said Pemex and traffic was backed up to the wazoo, so it took 15 minutes to drive a mile.
We did get home safely. The report of that particular gas station being targeted was false. But is served as an extreme wake-up call for me.
So what’s this all about? January 1 marked an increase of 20 percent in gas prices in Mexico as part of the opening of government-owned petroleum investments to foreign investors. (See After Privatizing Oil Mexico Becomes Net Importer of US Fuel) If it were just gas, that would be one thing. However, the spike in gas prices means every single item, not locally made or grown, is more expensive. Since Mexico has become dependent on its imports, that pretty much is everything. (See also Gasoline Hikes lead to food shortages in Mexico) In order to be fair, the minimum wage has also increased. The daily minimum wage increased from $73.04 to $80.04 pesos (currently, approximately $3.90 USD). Yep, the average Mexican worker makes less than $4.00 USD per DAY.
Is it any wonder that people have been protesting this government reform? (See Por tercera vez, protestan en la Mexico-Queretaro por gasolinazo) As the most common form of protest here in Mexico is road closures, the situation becomes compounded when fuel can not be delivered to gas stations, so they close. (See Chihuahua ‘chaotic’ as gas stations close)
Of course, the government isn’t taking this lying down. Oh no! In response, Facebook posts and Tweets bombarded the social media networks with photos of looting being done by protestors and subsequent arrests of 4 looters in attempts to discredit the validity of the protestors. (See Mexican media botnet study)
There was also repeated video exposure of a man in a yellow El Camino who rammed riot police, injuring several officers. Of course, what is left out of the story is that just hours previously, the same group of riot police rammed protestors and ran over and killed the driver’s elderly mother.
The President attempted to win the sympathy of the Mexican people by addressing them with the words “I share your pain.” over the gas price increase claiming it is a financial necessity and will strengthen the Mexican economy over time. (See El gasolinazo es doloroso, pero es para proteger la economía de las familias: Peña Nieto) In a second address, he said raising gas prices was the only option. After all, we wouldn’t want to have to cut Seguro Popular now, would we? (See México es el quinto país del mundo que más aumentó precios de gasolina; y 40 ni lo movieron)
As that didn’t seem to go too far with calming the national outrage, there was yet another group arrested for looting. This time 46 alleged looters were arrested in Mexico State after breaking into Chedraui and stealing flat screen TVs. In the governor’s press conference, he assured the Mexican people that they had every right to peacefully protest the gas hike, but that well, this sort of chaos could not be allowed to continue. Sounds like martial law in the wings to me.
In fact, this looting bit seems to be sponsored by the government (See Acusan al gobierno de Puebla de pagar a pandilleros para la rapiña, Elektra store looting was well organized) which really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The stores that are targeted, Bodega, Chedraui, Soriana, OXXO etc have absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing protests. They are, however, big foreign businesses. (See Looting ‘out of control,’ says retailers’ group) Well, the local communities had enough. Armed with sticks, rocks and kitchen knives, more than one neighborhood has taken a stand against the looters. (See “Sáquense a chingar a su madre”, vecinos enfrentan a saqueadores en Veracruz and Así la movilización de locatarios, ante amenaza de posibles saqueos)
Of course, there is no doubt in my mind that the police took their fair share of the spoils as well. Here’s a video captured by the community organization Tepotzotlán Sin Basura. I’m not sure how long it will be available as we all know who controls the media in Mexico. Four officers were taken into custody after this video was made public. (See Cops help themselves after looters flee) Those four officers were not the only guilty parties, but they were the four caught on camera. Shame! Shame! (See also Catean domicilio de exregidora priísta; tenía articulos de saqueos)
Another breaking news story about riots in D.F. needs a closer examination. The photos accompanying the article are not from Mexico City, but Egypt. (See Usa Radio Fórmula imagen de disturbios en Egipto para “informar” sobre la supuesta violencia en Tultepec, Edomex ) Ok, so brown skinned people rising in revolt, close enough.
There have also been reports of the people taking over gas stations, sending the workers home, and dispensing the gas to those who wish it, free of charge. As that is just bad business, Pemex is planning on closing those gas stations in high-risk areas. (See Insecurity could close 400 gas stations today)
Protestor groups are claiming that the government has sent in their own provokers to stir up trouble. (See Acusan ONG a Eruviel de infiltrar provocadores en protestas anti gasolinazo) The government firmly denies the charge. But how do they explain away this video footage of a protest group getting off the POLICE bus? No comment, of course.
Mexico has gone so far as to ask the US to close the border entries at several locations during protests, not because there is any violence, but because the protestors have closed the casetas (toll booths) and without that income, what’s the point in having the entry opened? (Protests prompt closure at U.S.-Mexico border for 3rd weekend)
So why the continuing protests? (See Gas price protests are still drawing crowds) What’s done is done, right? Suck it up and move on. Well, February 3 will mark an additional 8 percent increase in gas prices throughout the country. Furthermore, Pemex sells gas in the US for half of what it charges for gas in Mexico. Where’s the economic necessity in that? (See Gasolinazo: Mexican Energy Minister Has Stake in Gas Stations)
So who pays the difference? The Mexican people do. The workers, the proletariat, the plebians. Certainly not the elite. (See Mexican representatives give themselves bonus of 7,500 dollars)
And I’m afraid this is just the beginning. (See More poverty due to gas prices: experts, Consumers shafted for gasoline, tortillas)