In response to President Enrique Peña Nieto’s speech last Thursday in which the question “what would you have done?” stood out like a sore thumb over the fuel price hikes of last week, on Saturday thousands of people marched in at least 25 of the 32 states of the nation to protest Peña Nieto’s unpopular decision.
“What would you have done?” The answer was one of assertiveness: get out on the street and protest against a nearly 20 percent price increase. To boot in provoking more protests the President denied that the increase was a new tax, or a result of his Energy Reform.
The states with the most numerous protests in terms of persons gathered against the price increase best known as “el gasolinazo” were Jalisco, Puebla, Chiapas, Sinaloa, Nuevo León, Hidalgo, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas, Colima, Chihuahua and not surprisingly, the State of Mexico of which the president is native and has been governor of.
A deep problem the president and his economic staff headed by Treasury and Public Finance Secretary (SHCP) José Antonio Meade Kuribreña is precisely one of the nation’s splintered democratic vote.
Meade Kuribreña visited several main television networks trying to explain the incomprehensible to the people: why the increase in the price of fuels was a good thing for the nation. Meade Kuribreña, a figure happy trigger master, could not convey his message, first because interviewers did not want to listen to his responses and secondly because apparently the administration has run out of excuses for the hike.
Also affecting President Peña Nieto was a small detail about Mexican democracy this writer tried to explain years ago. When he was elected in 2012, Peña Nieto won the presidency with 38 percent of the vote and would have to govern during six years as a minority president.
Definitely — financial considerations aside — the decision to increase fuel prices brought out the 62 percent of the people who did not vote for him or the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Now they are out in the streets, the great majority in peaceful protesting, but a heinous minority has opted for looting stores and showing aggression against police authorities.
Last Saturday, in one of the worst acts of violence, a taxi driver in Rosarito, Baja California, just 20 miles south of the San Diego-Tijuana border, charged his taxi — with a bumper — against the gendarmerie badly mangling four federal officers stationed there to protect the Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) fuel deposits in the area.
During four days of looting and violence, six people were reported killed in the fray and in encounters between looters and police.
Another problem the president presented last Thursday in his New Years message to the nation — all of it touting the benefits of the fuel increases — was that those who paid attention to him at the beginning of his administration are no longer listening, even if he may be right in his economic appraisal.
All people in Mexico know is that their government has hit them where it will hurt the most, the pocket, and that about the only correct phrase the president used was that “2017 will be a very difficult year.”
You bet it will, for everyone concerned which means all Mexicans.
There is no question, for beginners, that the discontent will continue as long as the president does not come up with a suitable answer as to why the “people’s treasure, oil,” which so many past PRI administrations led Mexicans to believe existed, is no longer there.
The last thing peaceful Mexicans want is a rebellion — even if it’s only looting — out on the streets, nor see the Armed Forces begin increasing patrols of super markets and sensitive areas of all cities.
Much less do Mexicans want to see soldiers repressing street mobs. But that’s the direction civil actions are heading toward should things continue the way they are going.