Mexico’s fuel market liberalization has done something rarely seen before: make California’s pump prices look cheap.
Drivers are flooding across the border to southern California to fill up on gasoline, after protesters blocking distribution centers near the Baja California capital of Mexicali caused stations to run dry. Antunez’s Shell gas station in Calexico is just five blocks away from the Mexican border and rarely has business been as busy as now. Mexicali drivers wait four to five hours to cross into the U.S. just to fill their fuel tanks and then wait another two hours to cross back into Mexico again.
“Right now, it’s crazy,” Rodrigo Marquez, 30, a station employee, said in a telephone interview. “We are having a lot, lot of people, everybody is fueling up their tanks.”
As Mexico opens a formerly monopolized market to foreign competitors for the first time in nearly eight decades, the government increased fuel prices to attract imports and outside competition. The 20 percent hike, dubbed a ‘gasolinazo,’ or fuel-price slam, sparked protests across the country that curtailed fuel distribution, leaving Petroleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, struggling to keep its stations supplied.
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