<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #67

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Neighbors Affected By Different Mexico City Construction Projects Meet

They Are Coordinating the Creation of a Large Opposition Front Organized as Part of the First Assembly in Defense of the Land

By Fernando León
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

February 21, 2011

On Sunday, February 13th, community organizers and neighbors from different neighborhoods in Mexico City held an assembly in the Magdalena Contreras delegation (a borough in the city), where residents there have blocked construction of a superhighway since the summer. This time they were accompanied by residents from the northern Azcapotzalco delegation, who are organizing to stop the construction of a new stadium in their neighborhood by the city government. Also attending were residents from the Tláhuac delegation in the south east of the city, among others. At the assembly they found their struggles had similar characteristics: the brute-force tactics used by the city government and Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the lack of attention given to their demands in the mainstream media, and the similarity in resistance tactics that have been deployed.

When Ebrard took office as Mexico City Mayor in December 2006, he could not have imagined the number of social movements that would emerge from around the city in opposition to his government’s construction projects, which themselves arose from his center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD in Spanish initials). A large part of these movements that were formed during his administration are a result of the arbitrary nature in which the city government has decided to move forward with construction projects in different areas of the city. These construction contracts are also negotiated with private companies like Spanish-owned OHL and Mexico’s ICA.

Neighbors of all ages who have demonstrated against the Mexico City government’s development projects participated in the assembly. DR 2011 Fernando León.
Neighbors affected by the projects decided to hold a meeting to share their experiences. The hosts of the meeting were neighbors affected by the construction of the Western Superhighway, a toll highway that, along with destroying hundreds of colonial houses, would decimate an ecological reserve and the water sources underneath it. The neighbors were never consulted on the construction of the project, and were deprived of their property overnight. Now they have to live day and night amid construction machinery that’s guarded by riot police. As Narco News has reported, residents held a sit-in to avoid the continuation of the construction in the La Malinche neighborhood. Although the Mexico City Human Rights Commission issued precautionary measures and recommended the city government suspend the construction due to human rights violations of inhabitants in the area, the mayor continues to turn a deaf ear and keeps the police and machines in place.

As a part of the Mexican presidential race in 2012, Ebrard is attempting to position himself as a potential candidate within his party, drawing on large projects like the Superhighway to compete in the elections. According to the mayor, his refusal to cancel the highway project is due to legal issues with the construction company, OHL. However, the affected neighbors question that assertion, since it appears to them that “Ebrard has electoral and financial commitments with the company.” If this is the motive, the Magdalena Contreras neighbors believe that even with the money the company could bring to his presidential campaign, Ebrard has already shown an “authoritarian attitude” in the city, which would reduce the likelihood of votes in his favor.

Neighbors from La Malinche are not the only ones affected by the construction projects to participate in the assembly. There are others from distant areas of the city that share the same relationship with the local government. This is the case in the Azcapotzalco delegation in the north. Recently in that region, the city government has tried to privatize two large public parks named Alameda Norte and Deportivo Reynosa in order to build a sports stadium in their place.

Martín, a member within the movement against the construction of the stadium said that, “in a residential and industrial zone like Azcapotzalco, where green areas are becoming scarce, these parks are essential for the recreation and ecology of the place.” Until a few weeks ago neighbors freely enjoyed the parks, but then the city government alerted residents of an order to remove these areas from the public domain. Demanding information about the project that has never been offered by the government, the neighbors soon realized there was a plan to build a stadium called the Mexico City Arena on the land. This situation caused residents from seventeen neighborhoods and towns to organize to stop the government plan to privatize the parks.

The neighbors from Azcapotzalco have done marches, street blockades and human chains. Recently the neighbors blocked the Metrobus 3 line, another controversial Ebrard project, from moving along its route on Vallejo avenue during the grand opening of the line. By doing that they ruined the mayor’s public relations spectacle and forced him to cut his media tour of the Metrobus short.

Azcapotzalco neighbors who participated in the meeting said they have found support among students and workers at the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Azcapotzalco, where the campus is located adjacent to the recreational parks. The escalation of the conflict and the rejection of the project caused Enrique Vargas, the borough chief of the district and member of the same political party as Ebrard, to respond to the matter and announce a citizen referendum. However, the neighbors, who were aware of the modus operandi of the various levels of government in other areas of the city, set up camps within the parks to prevent the entry of the authorities.

María Eugenia Torres and Gilberto Velásquez (left) from Azcapotzalco, along with Leonardo Jiménez (with the baseball hat) and Tomás Hernández (right) from Tláhuac, during the Sunday assembly. DR 2011 Fernando León.
Many residents from the movement in Azcapotzalco attended the Magdalena Contreras assembly. Gilberto Velásquez and María Eugenia Torres, neighbors from the affected area, were in charge of beginning the participation of Azcapotzalco in the assembly. Besides showing the abuses that they had suffered together with their neighbors, they also showed a great optimism for the convening of the assembly. Both of them commented that their delegation has held permanent assemblies, where neighbors decided that they should support other struggles in the city to “strengthen the overall struggle.”

Other city movements that attended the assembly were neighbors affected by the construction of a metro train line 12 and other development projects in the Tláhuac delegation. Tomás Hernández, a resident of Tláhuac, talked about the granting of injunction orders for the neighbors whose land was being expropriated, which has succeeded in stopping the construction of a metro train stop temporarily. However, he notes that “Ebrard isn’t interested in the law,” and will follow through with the construction “no matter what the cost.”

Also participating in the assembly was Josué, a member of an alliance of Magdalena Contreras organizations that warned of the installation of different Wal-Marts in the district that would “destroy the residents’ economy and local businesses.” Not only did those affected by city projects participate, but so did members opposing the construction of the Paso de la Reina dam in the state of Oaxaca, along with residents from the Valle de Bravo in the state of Mexico who are affected by the construction of a highway similar to Ebrard’s superhighway. The assembly also featured members of the historic People’s Front in Defense of the Land from San Salvador Atenco, whose experience in stopping an international airport in 2001 has made them a symbol for defending land in Mexico.

For the movements that attended, the most relevant part of the assembly was the ability to share their experiences with their struggles, along with the resistance tactics that have worked to strengthen each movement and build a broad coalition of solidarity among themselves. Against Ebrard’s arbitrary projects, and those from other governments, they want to visualize their movements as not being composed of only a few people, as the authorities have argued. They want to visualize their movements as being composed of thousands of people that are now looking to build a large network of movements opposing the aforementioned projects. According to Hernández from Tláhuac, the point is to “come together to learn about ourselves.”

The magnitude of these struggles was echoed in the last Plenary Meeting of the Pacific Central Region of the Indigenous National Congress, which made a announcement on the matter, which reads: “We reject the dispossession of land by the Mexico City government headed by Marcelo Ebrard for the construction of the metro line 12 on the lands of the Nahua community of Tlahuac and for the construction of the Western Superhighway.” Similarly, actions against these projects have been versatile and are coming from different areas. On Wednesday, February 16, a university student from the area affected by the superhighway was awarded the 2010 Mexico City Youth Prize. He took a stand in front of the mayor when he held a sign that said “No to the superhighway!” taking the fight against the superhighway to the official government events.

Besides the overwhelming solidarity that was evident in the assembly, for the meeting neighbors it was notable that the arbitrary nature of the construction projects, besides “revealing the authoritarian nature of the mayor,” has also served as a catalyst to organize residents in the city, who amid expropriations and dispossessions are together reclaiming what belongs to them.

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