Update – Jan. 11, 1:30 p.m: Crowds on the Mexicali side of the border protesting the gas prices led to the West Port of Entry shutting down for nearly 45 minutes, beginning at 11:00 a.m. The POE is open again and currently being monitored by the Calexico Police Department.
CALEXICO — Chaos has erupted in Mexico over recent gasoline price hikes, forcing thousands of Mexicali residents who have U.S. immigration status or dual citizenship to cross the border into Calexico to fill their tanks.
On January 1, gasoline prices in Mexico increased when the Mexican government raised the price by 20 percent, leading to numerous protests outside gas stations, at land port of entries, fuel refineries, municipal buildings, and highways throughout the state.
The president of Mexico, Enrique Penanieto, has called “gasolinazo,” as the price increase is known, a necessary measure, however thousands of protesters throughout Mexico have clearly rejected the price increase with riots, violence, burnings, and looting.
Following the announcement, hundreds of unhappy local residents made their way to the supply plant of PEMEX in West Mexicali, blocking local roads needed to transport fuel. By Sunday, January 8, most of the gasoline stations across Mexicali were closed leaving residents with no option other than crossing to the sister city (Calexico).
As of Sunday, extended lines formed at numerous gasoline stations in the cities of Calexico and Heber. Some to the extent of pushing their vehicles across the border. On Tuesday, the AM/PM on Yourman Road in Heber was forced to shut down for at least half an hour after being left without supply.
The steep price increase has impacted the poorest more than anyone. Currently the cost of one gallon of gasoline in Mexico is $3.60, about 90 percent of Mexico’s newly increased minimum wage, which is now 80 pesos – or about $4.00 for a full day’s work.
Thus, the increase of vehicles crossing into Calexico has contributed to even longer wait times when attempting to cross back into Mexico after two southbound lanes at the Calexico West Land Port of Entry closed on Monday due to the first phase of the modernization and expansion. Lines have extended as far back as Cole Road and Highway 111, approximately two miles from the border.
On Tuesday, January 10, during the Imperial County Board of Supervisors regular board meeting District 1 Supervisor John Renison said after meeting with Mexican authorities on Monday the wait time was expected to decrease.
“We met with Mexican Customs yesterday for about two and one half hours and what was offered to us was during peak hours from 3 to 7:00 p.m. they would consider to open up at least four southbound traffic lanes once you enter into Mexico,” said Renison. “As of yesterday around four o’clock, the lines were still backed up to U.S. Highway 98 and that is on a Monday, which concerns me. We need to do a better job in directing people to the East Port of Entry.”
Renison also said the situation would be monitored daily to make sure Mexican authorities keep up with their commitment.
“The other issue is the two to three hour wait time for people crossing into Calexico because of the gas price increase,” said Renison. “There is no gas in Mexicali right now and this is causing a lot of turmoil right now. We are trying to do our best going south into Mexicali to alleviate the situation.”
“We have a real crisis right now and we have to watch it and be proactive on what we can do to help the situation and alleviate it the best we can,” added Renison.