What Are These Protests Really About?

You may think it’s the hiking prices of gas and utilities but it goes deeper than that.
BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

By now you probably have seen one of the many protestor groups in all the major cities in our state. The protests began with the start of the new year when the federal government decided to stop subsidizing gasoline thus bringing the gas prices up about 20 to 30% from the first day of the year.

The government decision to stop paying for our gas was based on what they say was something that needed to be done to stabilize our economy and save about 10 billion USD per year. Since Mexico imports more than half the gas it needs, the gas price here is about the same price as in the USA.

To make things worst our brilliant head of the Mexican IRS called Hacienda goes public saying that the price was not that bad because “it’s almost the same as in the US”, of course he failed to mention that the minimum wage in Mexico is about 14 times less than the one in the US but people did notice.

Just minutes after the hike announcement people were already organizing protests through social media. Protesting started in gas stations, but they quickly went to federal buildings. Here in Baja protestors closed the toll booths in the scenic road forcing authorities to give passing drivers a free ride.

Probably the most productive protest here in the state is the one being held in the PEMEX facilities by the Pabellon mall in Rosarito, where protestors blocked the road to avoid any tank trucks to go through. Since gas goes from there to Tijuana and Rosarito, in just a couple of days this quickly translated into a gas shortage in Tijuana and Rosarito with some gas stations even having to close because they just didn’t have anything to sell. The state and federal government sent the police and they were successful in moving the protestors to allow the circulation of some tank trucks but the protestors quickly regrouped with even more participants blocking the circulation again.

Picketers brought a wide range of signs with phrases like “we are tired of liar and corrupt government officials”, “We are sick and tired, wake up Mexico!”, “No to the gas price hikes” and my personal favorite “I don’t need sex anymore, my government f**ks me every day”.

At press time the federal police “Gendarmeria” was already in place to end the blockage.

Although most of the protesting has been peaceful, there have been more than 800 reports of big stores around the country being looted by protestors. Even some police officers have been caught looting.

The hike in prices was not just on gas; water and electricity also went up about 20 to 30%. Even though with all these prices skyrocketing I think what made Mexicans go to the streets this time is not the hike in prices itself, this we can understand, it makes sense when you hear the explanation. The main problem here is that people are tired of having to pay for all the corruption on the country, all the luxuries and benefits of the political class.

The contradiction of the rhetoric the government uses and what they do is what is annoying us Mexicans. An example of this contradiction was the almost $25,000 USD Christmas payment that every congressman got, just days before announcing the utilities and gas price hikes. Wasn’t the problem the lack of money? Why don’t start there then?

It just doesn’t feel that we are all on the same boat, it seems to us that most of us Mexicans are on a fishing panga and our politicians are aboard a luxury yacht. Of course, this is not something new, it’s been happening for many years now. So many years that most of us just stopped caring about, but this time our pocket was directly hurt and we are not inclined to take it anymore when our government can’t even provide basic services like a steady trash picking service, water all day, streets without a million potholes or public security for its citizens.