Police end Mexico toll booth takeovers after 8 months

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Of all the forms of protest in Mexico, taking over highway toll booths is one of the odder and more lucrative.

Protesters often take over the booths for a few hours and charge motorists a fixed rate, lower than the original toll, to pass. They keep the money for their “cause.”

But few such takeovers lasted as long as one in Nayarit, where protesters had held nine sets of toll booths for the last eight months.

The National Guard finally moved in Sunday to clear the protesters out of the toll booths, after tens of millions of dollars in lost revenues over nearly 250 days.

The Guard said nobody was injured in the action.

Some of the protesters in Nayarit were farmers demanding more compensation for highways built across their lands, but other appeared to have little connection to any social movement.

Local media quoted the toll highways operators association as saying lost revenues in the Pacific coast state of Nayarit amounted to as much as $100 million. Even if the protesters charged slightly less than official tolls, quite a bit of money went into somebody's pockets.

Protests in Mexico often take strange forms; students at rural teachers' colleges routinely highjack passenger buses in southern Mexico, kick the passengers off and keep the buses and their drivers at their service for months. They have sometime kidnapped fuel delivery trucks to fuel the buses, and food delivery trucks for food.

Protesters in Mexico seize a wide array of facilities, taking over dams, bridges, police stations, town halls and have sometimes even taking army patrols captive until their demands are met.