Mexicali Protesters Vow to Continue until Demands are Met

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MEXICALI — Standing their ground and rejecting the gasoline price increase, which will soon affect food and public transportation costs, thousands of demonstrators gathered Sunday for a second weekend in a row in front of the government building in Mexicali to march against the decision to raise gas prices — known as gazolinazo.

Chanting for justice while waving banners and posters, nearly 2,000 protesters marched hoping to get their point across to government officials and convince them to rescind the recent gasoline price hike.

The protests began January 1 after the price of oil rose by 20 percent, immediately prompting demonstrations throughout the state. Since then, protesters have stationed themselves 24/7 in front of the governmental offices, blocking employees and officials from entering the building.

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 for a full day’s work.

The reaction to the gasoline price increase was just the beginning of a citizen movement that has highlighted a series of issues protesters are demanding the Mexican government address.

However, after a few weeks of protesters obstructing the passage to the government building in Mexicali, demonstrators agreed to open the doors of the building allowing Mexicali Mayor Gustavo Sanchez Vasquez hold a public forum with the group to discuss the issues.

From the first day of the blockade, Sanchez said protesters were asked to establish a dialogue table which was not made concrete until January 19, when the request was granted.

In a room filled with Mexican officials and dozens of protesters, the people of Baja California achieved something historic in the State; the abrogation of a law, which was a result of a series of events that are undoubtedly a turning point for a citizenship awake and hungry for change.

Earlier last week, protesters drafted and submitted a petition addressed to the Mexican State Government, State Congress, the Federation and City of Mexicali. The petition contained a series of demands, in particular, the abrogation of the State Water Law and the elimination of the exchange of plates.

After ten hours of discussions, reportedly no agreement was reached, since several of the points in the request sheet needed to be modified, and the addition of a request asking State Governor Francisco Vega de la Madrid to present a statement of his personal assets.

Points in the petition included the reduction of gasoline, water and electricity prices; requiring the financial, tax and interest statements from the Governor and officials at first and second levels; a 50 percent reduction of the Governor’s salary; the elimination of bonuses, retirement assets, the expenses of representation of first-level officials and any other services rendered to those holding office; austerity in the government of Baja California; immediate payment of retained wages to state employees, interim and retiring teachers currently employed, or not employed; and the elimination of the collection of vehicle verifications.

Protesters have vowed to continue blocking the government building until an agreement has been made with state officials.