The residents of a small Mexican town are taking justice into their own hands to fight back against a looting spree that has accompanied a nationwide protest of recent gas price hikes.
On Tuesday, a group of vigilantes formed in downtown Progreso de Obregon to chase off a mob of some 100 looters who were attempting to ransack a local department store. One of the suspects was caught, stripped naked, beaten, then forced to march through town as punishment, according to the daily Excelsior. The news site posted this video of the incident.
The protests and looting are in response to the Mexican government’s decision to raise gas prices by 15-20% across the country as part of a plan to eliminate subsidies and lift price controls.
In some Mexican states, including Hidalgo, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Michoacan, and Mexico, peaceful protests have been followed by rioting and looting. Veracruz’s state government is now offering a $20,000 reward for anyone that can provide information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the rioting.
Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior reports that 250 people have been arrested for looting over the past two days. But not everyone believes the looting is spontaneous.
On social media, some pundits speculate that the looting has been organized by shady, pro-government groups that are trying to distract people from the unpopular gas hikes, while giving the government an excuse to clamp down on all protesters.
“Maybe the looting is being organized as an excuse to militarize our streets,” tweeted renowned Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro.
Another message circulating on Twitter claims the looting might be an effort to distract people from the real problem behind the gas hikes.
The increases in pump prices are part of an energy reform package introduced in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto that will allow foreign companies to sell gasoline in Mexico for the first time in 80 years, while eliminating the national oil company’s monopoly on drilling.