MEXICO CITY, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Mexico’s oil company, Pemex, is struggling to supply gas stations around the northern border city of Mexicali because of a blockade at a storage site, part of a wave of sometimes violent protests and looting over a gasoline price hike.
In a post on its Twitter page, Pemex said its ability to supply gas stations in Mexicali, just across the border from California, had reached “critical levels” because of the blockade of its key local storage plant.
“No gas stations have any inventory,” said Rodrigo Llantada, president of the regional chapter of industry chamber Coparmex, adding the blockade began on Wednesday.
Protests since the Jan. 1 double-digit fuel price spike have exposed deep anger with President Enrique Pena Nieto over rising living costs fanned by a slump in the peso currency following Republican Donald Trump’s U.S. presidential victory.
Protesters have looted dozens of gas stations and supermarkets across the country. Nearly 2,000 people have been arrested for suspected involvement in related property damage and violence.
On Saturday, a truck drove into a line of federal police, injuring five, during clashes at another blockaded storage terminal in Baja California, while local media reported that shots were fired during protests on Sunday in the city of Nogales, across the border from Arizona.
The government has defended the hike as necessary to end subsidies on fuels through a gradual, year-long price liberalization that will free up resources for social spending.
Mexicali, a one-time agricultural outpost built up by Chinese immigrants a century ago, is now a sprawl of industrial plants stretching into the surrounding desert that supply the U.S. market.
Multinationals in the Baja California city manufacture everything from Coca-Cola drinks to Apple smartphone chips and sections of Boeing’s latest jet airliners.
“The assembly plant industry is at risk, and the operations of the whole productive sector,” Llantada said.
Residents took to social media to pass on information about where to find fuel, with some braving long lines to cross the border to Calexico, California, to fill up their vehicles.
Leticia Tellaeche, 62, said she was angry both with the government for raising prices and with the protesters for making the situation worse.
“They should let the gasoline through, don’t be fools, we know that whatever they do the prices are not coming down,” said Tellaeche, adding she had taken to using a bicycle to save fuel. (Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Lizbeth Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Peter Cooney)