Violence broke out in Mexico during numerous demonstrations held last week to protest petrol price hikes. Looting also took place in different cities across the country. Some police officers took advantage of the chaos to join in on the looting and pocket items from stores themselves. Police officers in Ecatepec, a town adjacent to Mexico City, were actually dismissed for looting.
On January 1, the price of petrol increased by 20.1% all across Mexico. The price of diesel fuel also went up by 16.5%. This has to do with the fact that, in 2014, the Mexican government approved a reform of the energy sector in order to end the monopoly by the state-owned petrol company, Pemex (Petróleos Mexicanos). The reforms include plans to liberalize petrol prices, which explains the recent jump in the price of fuel.
All week, protests took place in different cities across Mexico. In many cases, protesters blocked roads and petrol stations. In some cases, violence broke out. On Tuesday, Pemex responded to the protests by indicating that the distribution of petrol would be “extremely affected” if the blockades and harassment of its workers continued.
Vandalism and looting also took place in multiple locations. According to ANTAD, a business association that includes many supermarkets, more than 300 stores were looted over the past few days. In total, authorities arrested more than 700 people in connection with this looting. Authorities also confirmed that three civilians and one government employee also lost their lives in the violence.
Outlaw police in Ecatepec
Mexicans soon accused the police of failing to stop the looters, even though that is hard to prove in most cases. However, the authorities did confirm that some police officers had acted in an illegal manner in Ecatepec, a town adjacent to Mexico City, on Wednesday. Some of them were caught in the act in this video, which was widely shared on social media.
This footage shows police officers using shopping trolleys to carry items to their cars, which are parked near a supermarket that was looted as well as a petrol station. The officers put the items in their car boots. The scene took place on Via Morelos Avenue, in the Altavilla neighbourhood. Images provided by Google Street View match the surroundings caught on camera.
After this video was posted online, authorities confirmed that four police officers had been dismissed. Those officers had been questioned in front of a prosecutor general to “determine their probable responsibility” in this incident. The authorities also stated that they did would not tolerate “illegal” acts.
Other police officers acted suspiciously in the Mexican capital
There was also a lot of uproar about a second video, this one filmed by journalist Juan Rivas in the northern part of the Mexican capital. The footage shows police officers carrying boxes.
"Police officers from Unit DF569-145 of the Secretariat for Public Security in Mexico City load screens into their car, in GAM [Editor’s note: the Gustavo A. Madero sector], after looting. People complained."
France 24 spoke with Juan Rivas.
Two things stood out to me when I witnessed this scene. First of all, when a crime takes place in a certain location — if a store is looted, for example — nothing is supposed to be moved because you don’t want proof to be tampered with. In this case, these police officers clearly weren’t respecting that rule. Moreover, the police hit people when they started shouting, “Why are you taking all that?”
Once the video was posted on Twitter, authorities told me that the objects taken by the police were presented to the general prosecutor, apparently as proof. But when I mentioned that the police officers had altered the scene of the crime, they stopped responding to me.
For now, police have not been questioned about this matter.
Warning: fake images
All week, people were sharing videos of violence and looting on social media. While most of this footage was real, there were some videos that had nothing to do with what was going on in Mexico.
For example, contrary to what this social media user says, there were no tanks deployed in Ecatepec this weekend. In reality, this video was filmed in Ankara, the capital of Turkey, in July 2016 during an attempted coup.
>> READ ON THE OBSERVERS: How to verify photos and videos on social media networks