Mexican police detained 19 of their own on Monday for their alleged involvement in the looting that occurred last week in the town of Veracruz as the national protests against the gas price hikes continue for a second week.
They were arrested after investigations turned up a warehouse hoarding many looted materials that had not been reported by the officers to their superiors, according to the Secretary of Public Security.
The detainees are members of the United Command of the Medellín Police, a locality of the state of Veracruz, according to the local newspaper El Universal.
Mexicans have been protesting a gas price hike of nearly 20 percent since Jan. 1, part of President Pena Nieto’s attempts to deregulate the energy sector. Protests have included blockades of streets and gas stations, and even looting, across several states as thousands of people march across the country. By Saturday, at least 25 states were under popular mobilization.
Among the largest demonstrations were 20,000 protesters who gathered in Puebla, 5,000 in Guadalajara and 1,000 in Tapachula.
As predicted by a professor and researcher at the Mexico’s Chapingo Autonomous University, the price increases have hit the campesinos and large-scale farmers the hardest. This has jeopardized agricultural production and food security.
Thus far, the result has been the death of at least six people, including one police officer, the destruction of hundreds of stores and businesses, and the arrests of over 1,500 people. Still, Nieto has vowed to keep the measures, saying the increase in prices are due to external factors and not to his euphemistically-dubbed “Energy Reform,” nor to “an increase in taxes.”
“The price of oil increased close to 60 percent” over the last year, he tried explaining last Thursday, according to Europa Press, adding that Mexico “imports over half the fuels it consumes.”
“My responsibility is precisely to make the hard decisions for the present, to avoid greater consequences in the future,” he insisted during his New Year’s speech.
However, despite the international prices Peña Nieto referred to, 40 countries around the world have not increased gas prices while seven nations have lowered them, according to a report by Global Petrol Prices.
The reforms are moreover affecting the most vulnerable sectors of society, with consumer prices expected to continue rising. Consumer prices already rose 3.36 percent from December 2015, national statistics agency INEGI said last week, the highest rate since December 2014 and above the central bank's 3 percent target.
The figure was below the 3.4 percent analysts forecast in a Reuters poll but up from 3.31 percent in November.