At least five people have been killed in weeklong nationwide protests and looting over a sharp increase in gasoline prices that took effect Jan. 1, authorities confirmed Friday.
Authorities said more than 700 people have been arrested as the National Association of Self-Service and Departmental Stores reported at least 400 stores looted across Mexico since Wednesday.
Protests, road blockades and demonstrations at gas stations continued Friday for a sixth straight day in at least 22 of the country’s 31 states.
Protesters are demanding the government reverse its decision to raise gas prices 20 percent.
The situation calmed Thursday in the Mexican capital, but chaos spread to other regions of the country.
Two people were killed Thursday in a clash between police and protesters in Ixmiquilpan, in the southern state of Hidalgo, officials there said Friday.
In the port of Veracruz, the largest city in the eastern state with the same name, two suspected looters were shot dead by unidentified individuals.
“Today, we have greatly intensified the number of patrols throughout the state. We already have 300 people under arrest and under criminal proceedings, ” Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes said at a news conference Friday.
A police officer was killed Wednesday after he was hit by a vehicle while trying to prevent theft at a gas station in Mexico City.
In Monterrey, the country’s third city of Mexico, more than 10,000 demonstrators peacefully protested against the increases Thursday when youth groups, many masked, clashed with protesters and vandalized government offices, authorities said.
“We welcome the protests, but we will punish vandalism against the heritage of the inhabitants of Nuevo Leon,” state Gov. Jaime Rodriguez said Friday.
President Enrique Peña Nieto tried to justify the price increase as a consequence of rising international prices while acknowledging the move was a “difficult change, but necessary” to ensure economic stability.
“In the past, other governments have decided to keep gasoline prices artificially low, to avoid political costs,” he said Thursday during a televised address.
A liter of gasoline now costs about $0.90. The minimum wage in Mexico is $4 per day.