VERACRUZ, Mexico – Three days of looting in this Gulf Coast city amid nationwide protests over sharp increases in gasoline prices came to an end on Friday thanks to the arrival of more police reinforced by residents wielding clubs and machetes.
Around 250 federal officers were joined by hundreds of shop owners and city residents in securing the commercial areas of Veracruz and neighboring Boca del Rio.
Authorities said that 500 people were arrested over the previous two days in connection with disturbances in Veracruz-Boca del Rio and other towns in Veracruz, including Medellin de Bravo, Tierra Blanca, Agua Dulce, Coatzacoalcos and Misantla.
The president of the Veracruz chamber of the National Chamber of Commerce, Jesus Muñoz de Cote Sampiery, estimated the cost to local merchants in damage, theft and lost business at more than 1 billion pesos ($47.1 million).
State Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes Linares came to the Las Brisas shopping center in Veracruz city on Friday to distribute hundreds of 500-peso ($23.60) food vouchers to mothers, part of an effort to appease public anger over the gas hikes.
The 14 percent to 20 percent hikes in fuel prices that took effect on Jan. 1 triggered protests in cities across Mexico.
The protests over the increase in fuel prices have grown, with truckers, transportation workers, grassroots activists and others joining in to oppose the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who was deeply unpopular even before the increase.