For over three weeks in a row, thousands of protesters have engaged in periodic blockages along the US-Mexico border, leaving the most transited border in the world paralyzed from governmental control.
By Workers’ Voice
The movement against the Gasolinazo, which began with the occupation of a distribution center in Rosarito, has now taken national dimensions with an enormous popular force that continues to further occupations of federal buildings across the country–including the Customs building on the border. This movement is taking thousands of people of to the streets to protest against Peña Nieto’s government and the corruption that pervades the country.
The Gasolinazo, which refers to the 20% increase in the price of gasoline that took effect at the beginning of the year, reveals itself a direct repercussion of the infamous energetic reform that was implemented by Peña Nieto’s government in 2013. Such reform assured the privatization of the Oil public industry and the successive liberalization of gas prices to the standards world market.
We have had the privilege of interviewing Rosa, a member of the organization Raíces sin Fronteras, who has actively participated in the protests:
What has happened in the US-Mexico border ever since the reaction of the popular movement against the “gasolinazo”?
Rosa: Mexico’s border states have joined the movement that states in central Mexico started against the gas hikes. Such protests have taken the form of massive marches, occupations of governmental offices, as well as of border and highway checkpoints.
They have rebelled like a dormant giant that has now awakened to confront the constant attacks by the Peña Nieto’s administration, and the gas hike which goesbeyond what the Mexican people afford. The number of people that have participated in the series of peaceful actions has no precedents. In Mexicali alone, the capital of Baja California, more than 40, 000 people gathered and marched against the newly implemented policies of the current president. In the same day, in Tijuana, almost 20, 000 took the streets under the same pressures. The protests have been constituted by citizens from all social classes, and they march independently from any political party.
These marches have taken place at least three times in the past month– the last one being on Sunday January 22. However, the numbers have not gone down. If anything, in border cities such as Mexicali and Tecate, protesters have taken tax collection buildings, while protesters in Rosarito occupied the PEMEX supplier installations for three whole days. The eviction of the last occupation had to recur to violent measures, as the task was overtaken by a sector of federal police that was deployed to the region from Mexico City.
Meanwhile, in Tijuana, protesters continue to hold control of the city Council since January 22. In this city, the rally against the gasolinazo merged into a denouncement against a law that intended to privatize the water in the city. Under popular pressure, Governor Francisco Vega was forced to take the measure down.
Perhaps the strongest strike against the Mexican government has been the occupation and liberation of the US-Mexico Customs building. Whether it be by the hundreds or the thousands–as it was on the 15 of January–the US-Mexico border has remained under the control of the people who participate in the peaceful protests. The entrance points are left open for any car to cross without inspection or jurisdiction by part of Mexican authorities. To this, US authorities have reacted by blocking the freeways that lead to the US-Mexico border. Because of the mass media, the people mistake this action by blaming the protesters for such blockade, when such orders have explicitly come directly from the United States.
What are the main demands of the people who are currently mobilizing?
Rosa: The people are demanding the suspension of the recent gas hikes, as well as for the resignation of the current president Enrique Peña Nieto, who has shown to have only lied when he began promoting his energetic reform.
To those demands you may also add the local charges against other reforms that have also sparked anger amongst the local people, such as the water law in Tijuana.
What sectors of the country promote and organize these protests?
Rosa: The organization of the protests is carried out by citizen groups and unaffiliated students. The workers in the transportation industry–mostly taxi drivers–have had a strong presence in Tijuana. However, in the marches you may come to find from the house-working women, walking in the streets while banging pots to make noise, to students, children and their families, workers from all industries, teachers, white-collar workers, and surely members from different political parties too– without flying out their banners, of course.
What are the next steps to follow in order to develop the mobilization on both sides of the border?
Rosa: Since the movement is yet young North of the country, there is still a lack of formal organization. However, following the steps of the movement down the South and Center of the country, spontaneous popular assemblies are continually being invoked in the sit-ins of the mobilizations.
I may speak of the Tijuana-San Diego border, since this is where I live, and with no doubt I consider myself a witness of the border phenomena. In San Diego, due to the Trump elections, numerous left-wing coalitions with a diverse set of backgrounds, political orientations and ideologies are being organized with the purpose of fighting the recent results of the presidential election.
Many of the individuals participating in the movement are aware that, by being in this region, the border becomes an invisible factor.
Everyone knows that the economies on both sides of the border are heavily dependent to each other and that we need to keep both in good shape. Thousands of Tijuana residents come to work and/or do their shopping in San Diego. Participants in the coalitions that have arisen in San Diego have spoken about uniting to the cause on the Mexican side. Mexicans, or those with Mexican heritage, cross the border to participate in the mobilizations in Tijuana, and at the same time we all spread information about what is going in México. It’s on us to organize an alliance with our Mexican sisters and brothers.