Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thirty Day Anniversary of Glorieta Street Violence Observed

By Lic. Edward V. Byrne

A youth carries the traditional cross "Rest in Peace, Justice of Yucatan" -Photographer Ed Byrne
Hundreds of persons gathered Thursday night (August 4) at Mérida's historic Monumento a la Bandera (Monument to the Flag), on its famous Paseo de Montejo, to commemorate the 30 day anniversary of street violence which erupted on July 4 at a nearby underpass construction site. The crowd was orderly and the demonstration was peaceful. Uniformed municipal police were on hand to direct traffic around the participants. Several blocks of the Paseo were closed to vehicles while demonstrators carrying candles marched north to the Glorieta de la Paz, where the construction is half-completed and purportedly on schedule, with an anticipated late September completion date.

The march was announced earlier in the week in several public media sources, and was also circulated by email and in social media. Some participants carried placards asking for peace, and others named public officials they hold accountable for the violent events, notably including Mérida Mayor Angelica Arajuo Lara and the Yucatán’s Governor Ivonne Ortega. Both are members of PRI, Mexico’s powerful Revolutionary Institutional Party. One large banner carried by a group of persons read, “Thirty days [have passed] – and still no one held accountable, no response from the authorities, nothing but official indifference.” Another sign boldly proclaimed, “Mayor Angelica ordered the attack on citizens with the direct approval of Governor Ivonne.” One man insisted on delivering impromptu comments to the crowd, urging them to stop paying taxes. “That’s the only way they’ll listen to us,” he said. And dozens of participants wore special T-shirts, with the legend “the blows may be forgotten, but our indignation will not.”

“Thirty days, and still no one held accountable, no response from the authorities, nothing but official indifference.” -Photographer Ed Byrne
Comments by both politicians have been guarded since the July 4 events, and especially by the Governor, who has sought to distance herself from the underpass controversy, the resulting Glorieta violence and even from her PRI colleague in city hall. Last week various citizens groups converged upon the Yucatán’s Congress to demand the impeachment and removal of Mayor Angelica, but it is unclear whether that initiative will move forward in the heavily dominated PRI legislative body. Mérida’s local prosecutor continues to investigate several persons who have been identified as active participants in the July 4 violence. One of those is a former city worker who allegedly has close personal and professional ties to the Mayor. In late July the man was dismissed from his job, which he had held for 18 years, after news photographs and video showed him apparently attacking some underpass protestors at the July 4 demonstration. He has claimed that he was only defending himself from persons who attacked him first, and has promised to fight any charges.

A victim of the violence of July 4th, José Enrique Gutiérrez. Photagrapher Ed Byrne
On Thursday night the crowd marched north to the Glorieta, chanting and singing and repeatedly demanding “out with Angelica, out with Ivonne.” Many left candles at the construction site, together with signs that read “No to the Underpass” and “No to Proser.” Proser is a local construction company that won the job after bidding was opened by the city in late June. The city claims that it will spend about $61 million pesos [$5 million USD] on the controversial project, which has been vigorously opposed by a curious alliance of political and professional groups as well as by many individuals who object to it on esthetic, environmental and other grounds.

Flowers and signs posted on the fence surronding the underpass project. -Photograper Ed Byrne
After spending a few minutes at the construction site, the demonstrators turned south and returned on foot to the Monument to the Flag, where the event broke up soon afterwards. There were no apparent counter-protestors in attendance last night.

Photographer Ed Byrne

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