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Gas prices drive protestors to march under rainy skies

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About 200 protestors braved the rain to protest gas prices today. Photo: Desde el Balcón

Mérida, Yucatán — Despite constant rain, approximately 200 people protested in front of the Government Palace, angry at recent fuel hikes.

As at the State Congress, fences were set up at the State Executive’s headquarters to prevent the protestors from breaching the entrance, under guard by State Police.

The discontented citizens staged a protest in the historic center, displaying signs and banners accusing the federal government of corruption that has generated economic uncertainty in the country.

With the cry of Fuera Peña (“Out with Peña”), citizens demanded no more federal and state taxes and more moderate gas prices. Consumer fuel prices rose from 14 to 20 percent on Jan 1 as the government adopted what it called market-based pricing and removed government subsidies.

While peaceful in Yucatán, elsewhere in Mexico, protests have devolved into looting. A Mexico City police officer was killed as he tried to stop looters on Wednesday

The president’s explanation that the gasoline increase of almost 20 percent was necessary to maintain economic stability did nothing to calm the outrage.

“Even in good times, it is a problematic decision” to raise gasoline prices, Vidal Romero, a political analyst at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, told The New York Times. “And this is a very bad moment.”

The protest here was joined by citizens who participated in a caravan of cars that left the State Congress on the Periférico. They descended onto Avenida Canek until they met other demonstrators in Parque de La Paz.

Protestors walked on Calle 59 until they reached the Plaza Grande, where dozens of protesters were waiting for them at the Government Palace.

Fuera el mal gobierno! (“Out with bad government!”) they shouted with more strength, many protecting themselves from the rain with umbrellas.

One citizen, Martha Montero, told local media that they understand that the increase of fuel prices was imminent, but due to the high gas taxes, filling a tank here costs more than in many other countries.

Because 50 percent of Mexico’s gasoline is imported from abroad, in the absence of adequate infrastructure, gasoline is sold at high prices, “which is contradictory because we are an oil producing country,” she said.

The gas-price increase was approved last year by Congress as part of an austerity budget designed to insulate Mexico from market uncertainties. The government plans to let prices float by the end of the year, presumably leading to competition and lower prices.

“The incredible thing is that the government didn’t expect the reaction,” said Ignacio Marván, a political analyst at CIDE, a Mexico City university.

“They didn’t take the measure of people’s anger,” said Graco Ramírez, the governor of the central state of Morelos and a member of the left-wing opposition. “Everything is going to be more expensive.”

Sources: Desde el Balcón, The New York Times

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