One police officer was been killed in nationwide protests and looting over a spike in gasoline prices, officials said Thursday.
At least 600 people have been arrested as truckers, transportation workers and activists have been protesting for five days against the 20 percent hikes that took effect Jan. 1.
Five highways were partially blocked by protesters Wednesday while hundreds of demonstrators took part in seven separate marches in Mexico City alone.
The city attorney's office published a report Thursday that said a vehicle hit six police officers who “were trying to preventing theft at a gas station” Wednesday night.
“One of them died at the hospital,” the report says, adding that authorities opened an investigation to clearly identify the circumstances.
The National Association of Self-Service and Departmental Stores said at least 120 stores were looted Thursday in addition to the 250 stores looted the previous day.
“The information that we have so far shown that these thefts are perpetrated by neighbors, people who live next to the place they attack,” Mexico City’s government secretary Patricia Mercado said during a radio interview.
In Mexico state, a Mexico City suburb, four police officers were fired after images on social media showed hem holding looted merchandise.
Despite the protests, president Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday his administration would not reverse its decision to raise prices.
“Let me tell you that it is a very difficult decision to take. I understand the anger of Mexican people but I am asking you to understand our reasons,” he said at press conference, adding that the “global economic situation” has forced the government to raise prices.
The government said the hikes were a result of the strength of the U.S. dollar.
Mexico imports much of its gasoline although it exports crude oil.
Pena Nieto’s administration said the price increase would help attract new private investors to the newly opened fuel market.
He promised to present a plan in the coming days to help bus, taxi and truck drivers cope with the price increase.
A liter of gasoline now costs about $0.90. The minimum wage in Mexico is $4 per day.
By Nancy Caouette in Mexico City