Thousands of Mexicans protest gasoline price hikes

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexicans angry over a spike in gasoline prices took to the streets of Mexico City on Saturday after days of protests spurred looting in hundreds of stores, resulting in over a thousand arrests in Latin America’s second-largest economy.

Mexico’s government hiked gasoline costs by 14 to 20 percent earlier this month, fueling outrage among Mexicans already facing rising inflation and adding to a long list of headaches besetting President Enrique Pena Nieto.

The hike is part of a gradual, year-long price liberalization the Pena Nieto administration has promised to implement this year. But the government’s many efforts to justify the hike have fallen on deaf ears.

“No to the gasoline price hike, Pena out,” protesters yelled as they marched from Mexico City’s center to the Presidential residence.

While there were no reports of violence in Mexico City on Saturday, the backlash has been far from peaceful.

Mexican authorities on Friday reported over 1,500 arrests since the protests began when price hikes kicked in on Jan 1. Mexican retail association ANTAD said on Friday that 423 stores were sacked, nearly half in the central state of Mexico, near the capital.

Local media reported marches on Saturday in the Mexican states of Sonora, Chiapas, Guerrero, Jalisco, Tabasco and Puebla as well.

Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Dan Grebler