MEXICO CITY – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said Wednesday that his administration would not tolerate “acts of violence” by protesters seeking to have the fuel price hikes that took effect earlier this week rescinded.
“The government of the republic will not allow abuses on the part of those using this measure (the fuel price increases) as a cover to commit acts of violence,” the president said in his first address of the year.
The 14 percent to 20 percent hikes in fuel prices, depending on the type of fuel, that took effect on Jan. 1 also do not justify “raising or making the decision to increase the prices of products without justification,” Peña Nieto said.
Protesters began blocking roads leading into Mexico City early Wednesday, making it difficult for drivers to enter the capital from surrounding states, officials said.
The first roadblock went up around 7:00 am on the Mexico City-Puebla highway at the Chalco toll plaza in Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, CAPUFE, the federal agency responsible for managing highways and bridges, said in a Twitter post.
Protesters later blocked the La Pera-Cuautla highway and the Mexico City-Tizayuca highway, among other roads.
A movement that includes different organizations has rejected the fuel price increase that took effect on New Year’s Day and staged protests across Mexico.
The National Alliance of Small Businesses (ANPEC) said the protests would continue.
“We Mexicans, in addition to feeling aggrieved over our own economy, feel deceived by the government, since it had promised that the energy reforms would bring great benefits, that energy would cost less and it turned out to be exactly the opposite,” the ANPEC said in a statement.
The protests over the hike in gasoline prices that took effect on New Year’s Day have grown across Mexico, with truckers, transportation workers, grassroots activists and others joining in to oppose the Peña Nieto administration.
Peña Nieto, who took office in 2012 and still has two years left in his six-year term, has seen his approval rating drop to around 30 percent.