Protest movement by workers grows in Mexico
On December 27, 2016 the Mexican administration announced a cut to gas subsidies which came into effect from January 1, 2017. Called the “Gasolinazo”, this move resulted in a steep rise in the price of standard petrol by 20 percent to 15.99 pesos (75 cents) a litre.
The hike in gas prices has come on top of the already unaffordable prices of most basic goods required by the working population, thus further squeezing the impoverished working class and peasantry. The working people of Mexico have not taken this latest attack on their lives lying down, they have come out of the streets in large numbers to show their opposition. Protests have been widespread across several cities in the country.
On 5th January 2017, 14000 bus, truck and taxi drivers in the oil-producing state of Veracruz announced a statewide strike of indefinite length, with many leaving their trucks, cabs, and buses parked on the street. The workers of Veracruz joined striking transportation workers in the city of Guadaljara. The protestors blocked several highways and tollbooths which link major inland Mexican cities. In Morelia, over 2000 transportation workers marched in protest, demanding that President Pena Nieto should resign and that the cut in subsidy should be revoked. Taxi drivers in Acapulco, Guerrero came out in large numbers to protest. Roadblocks were set up on highways leading to Mexico City and a strike by transit workers broadened to include the city of San Juan Del Rio in Quintana Roo. Thousands of truckers in Monterrey also joined the strike. Demonstrations continued along Mexico’s northern border, where protestors blocked railroad crossings to the United States at Nogales. Protests also took place near the border with Guatemala.
Protesters, led by transportation workers, have continued to block several oil processing centers while other key facilities for oil production are being guarded by elements of the federal and state police, as well as the army. The State’s police force has responded with ferocity to put down the protests. So far four people have died, many have been severely hurt and over 1,000 people have been arrested. The attitude of the Mexican government is reflected in the words of the President, who is reported to have said, “Protesting and looting will not bring about a change in reality.” However, the people are in no mood to accept this attack on them. The movement is growing in numbers even as trade unions are being used to denounce striking workers and prevent the protest from escalating into a nationwide strike.
The oil industry in Mexico was nationalized in 1938 after a massive strike by oil workers against British oil corporations. The move by the Mexican administration is clearly in preparation for a handover of the country’s oil resources to private corporations. While most of the corporate media in USA and across the globe have completely blacked out the protests blocking them from the rest of the world, some news media are covering the protests to present a blatantly false image, portraying the protestors as unruly mass mob which is looting and indulging in violence. The US media is reporting the event as a situation of “chaos” and is reflective of the US state’s fear that the protest will escalate to a level where workers on the US side of the border may also join in.