MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexicans angry over a double-digit hike in gasoline prices looted stores and blockaded roads on Wednesday, prompting over 250 arrests amid escalating unrest over the rising cost of living in Latin America’s second biggest economy.
Twenty-three stores were sacked and 27 blockades put up in Mexico City, Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said, days after the government raised gasoline costs by 14 to 20 percent, outraging Mexicans already battling rising inflation and a weak currency.
Mexican retailers’ association ANTAD urged federal and state authorities to intervene quickly, saying 79 stores had been sacked and 170 forcibly closed due to blockades.
Deputy interior Minister Rene Juarez said over 250 people had been arrested for vandalism and that federal authorities were working with security officials in Mexico City and the nearby states of Mexico and Hidalgo to address the unrest.
“These acts are outside the law and have nothing to do with peaceful protest nor freedom of expression,” Juarez said in a press conference late on Wednesday.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said earlier on Wednesday that the price spike that took effect on Jan. 1 was a “responsible” measure that the government took in line with international oil prices.
The hike is part of a gradual, year-long price liberalization the Pena Nieto administration has promised to implement this year.
State oil company Pemex said on Tuesday that blockades of fuel storage terminals by protesters had led to a “critical situation” in at least three Mexican states.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)