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Mexican church calls for calm amid gas-price protests


  • People are seen looting stores in Actopan, Mexico, during a Jan. 4 protest against increasing gas prices. Mexican bishops are calling for calm after an increasing number of protests over high gas prices. (CNS photo/Ulises Naranjo, EPA)
  • People are seen looting stores in Actopan, Mexico, during a Jan. 4 protest against increasing gas prices. Mexican bishops are calling for calm after an increasing number of protests over high gas prices. (CNS photo/Ulises Naranjo, EPA)

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MEXICO CITY (CNS) -- Mexican Catholic officials called for calm as angry protests over hikes in the government-set gasoline price consume the country.

Senior clergy also called for federal officials to show sensitivity toward the plight of millions of poor and middle-class Mexicans, struggling to make ends meet, as the country's sinking currency erodes their purchasing power and higher prices for gasoline could increase costs for basics such as food and transportation.

"We urge (citizens) to channel their discontent, understandable as it is, through peaceful, respectful and creative expressions," the Mexican bishops' conference said in a Jan. 7 statement. "We urge the civil authorities to seriously reconsider -- given the national context and international variables -- this measure, which affects everyone in our country, especially the poor."

Outrage erupted almost immediately after the government announced increases of more than 20 percent, implemented Jan. 1 due to deregulation of the gasoline distribution and retailing market. The protests included peaceful marches throughout the country for more than a week, although media reported the looting of at least 250 stores.

Mexicans say they cannot absorb the increased cost of gasoline, even those not owning a car.

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