By Kirk Semple and Elisabeth Malkin / New York Times
Amid nationwide marches, highway and border crossing blockades and looting stemming from widespread outrage over an increase in gas prices, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico went on national television to appeal for understanding.
With international oil prices rising and Mexico dependent on gasoline imports, he argued in the speech on Thursday, the government had no alternative but to raise prices at the pump. “Here I ask you,” he said, gesturing at the camera, “what would you have done?”
It did not take long for him to get an answer, as social media erupted with suggestions and disgust.
Combat corruption and impunity. Eliminate gasoline vouchers for elected officials. Collect more taxes from multinational corporations. Cut the salaries and benefits of high-level government officials. Sell the presidential plane. Reduce the first lady’s wardrobe spending. Resign.
It was a tough week for the president, who seems to be trapped in a slow, downward spiral of unpopularity, with two more years left in his term and Mexico reeling from myriad problems including rampant corruption, resurgent homicide rates, a thriving drug trafficking industry, a sluggish economy and a plummeting peso.