Looters Storm Mexico Wal-Mart, Chedraui Stores on Gas Hike

  • Protesters are angry about government’s 20% increase
  • Looting has been reported since Tuesday night in 7 states

People pick up toys as they loot a store during a protest in the port of Veracruz, Mexico, on Jan. 4, 2017, related to a 20 percent gasoline price increase.

Photographer: ILSE HUESCA/AFP/Getty Images

Looters sacked at least 250 stores across seven Mexican states, reflecting growing unrest over a 20 percent hike in gasoline prices.

Wal-Mart de Mexico SAB, Grupo Comercial Chedraui SAB, Grupo Elektra and Organizacion Soriana SAB stores were among those targeted this week in a wave of anger about the “gasolinazo,” or fuel-price slam. Looting, preemptive store closings and trucks robberies have been widely reported in local press and social media since Tuesday night.

Even before the unrest, retailers were expected to take the biggest hit by the hike. The increase is likely to erode purchasing power and consumer sentiment that’s already suffering as a weaker peso fuels concern about inflation. The government is letting gas prices surge as part of a plan to gradually cede control of the fuel market to private development following a landmark energy overhaul in 2013.

Antad, the Mexican retailers’ association, said it was a “tough” night for stores and that government efforts haven’t been enough to calm the situation. The association is meeting with Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo to discuss the matter, Manuel Cardona, the group’s head of government relations, said in an interview with Radio Red on Thursday. The economic fallout hasn’t been estimated, he said.

Walmex, Soriana, Elektra and Chedraui didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Shares of Walmex, controlled by U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc., fell as much as 2.1 percent in Mexico City trading.

Planigrupo Latam SAB, a real estate investment company, said in a filing that two malls in which it has a controlling stake were looted and vandalized Wednesday and Thursday in Mexico state. The company is working with local and federal authorities to protect the locations and the people who work there, the company said.

In a conference Wednesday, President Enrique Pena Nieto said he understood public outrage over the gas-price hike, but that it was a necessary move to reflect higher global prices.

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