Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One year later, Mérida remembers the "aggression" of July 4 at Glorieta de la Paz

MGRR photojournal report -
A postcard from Yucatán, and a glimpse at the other side of Mexican politics

State police line up on the city's famed Paseo de Montejo, July 4, 2011

Mérida, Yucatán -
Anyone who followed the just-ended presidential campaign knows that political life can get pretty heated at times in this nation of 112 million people, where four major parties (and a few smaller ones) seem never to tire of trading insults. Even when the balloting is over, the name calling often isn't (Andrés Manuel López Obrador calls 2012 election "dirty, a national shame").

Beginning in December, we'll have a divided government here. The powerful Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) held on to the state governor's post, but the National Action Party (PAN) captured the mayor's office. Which means, beyond doubt, that more political storm clouds are on the local horizon. In fact, the war has already started, as PAN today announced that it will file a challenge to the gubernatorial results.

Mérida has a number of glorietas, or traffic circles. One of them was at the intersection of two streets which carry very heavy traffic: Paseo de Montejo, by far the most prestigious avenue in town and named for the city's Spanish founder, and Circuito Colonias, an inner beltway which serves hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day. The spot where the two converge is known as the Glorieta de la Paz - the "circle of peace." Mérida itself was named a World City of Peace last year.

Because of congestion at the circle, frequent accidents and the continual risk presented to pedestrians bravely trying to traverse the area on foot (I used to be one of them), the PRI-controlled city government decided early in 2011 to replace the traffic circle with an underpass. It was a wise move, in my opinion, but PAN decided to oppose it, ostensibly because of "environmental damage" the project entailed (a few scrubby trees along the city's right-of-way, hanging on since Columbus first sighted land in the Americas, had to be pulled out, but they were replaced). Of course, the real reason PAN opposed the much needed urban improvement was because it was the other party's great idea.

Early on the day ground-breaking was to occur, PAN send out a group of "volunteers," who literally jumped on earth moving machinery and seized control of the work site. PRI, stupidly, was lured into a very physical response, dispatching a few street thugs to beat the living ###!!!! out of the PAN activists. All hell broke loose. The full details are here: Violence Over an Underpass Underscores Reality of Mexican Gloves-off Politics.

The case still lingers a year later. Alleged victims of the "PRI brutality" are demanding that the criminal complaints they filed be prosecuted. The local PAN-loyal newspaper, Diario de Yucatán, mentions the case almost weekly, referring to it as the "violent aggression of July 4."

The underpass was completed, and it's a beautiful piece of work with which few of any political stripe can find fault. You can see photos of it here: Mérida crowns stunning new road project.

Oh, there is one small problem with it. Water drainage grates which are embedded in the lowest sections of the roadway come loose occasionally, requiring replacement and brief closing of the underpass. That's all PRI's fault, of course.

"Heck no, we don't want an underpass . . ."

Several platoons of estatales arrive on the scene

Nice ladies + white flowers = Peace

These guys came prepared for business . . . and yes, they're loaded (I asked)

"Well, in my personal opinion, PAN is actually better than PRI because . . ."

I don't usually recommend getting quite this close to a police line . . .

After the dust cleared . . .

Photos copyright 2011-2012 Edward V. Byrne d/b/a Mexico Gulf Region Reporter (MGRR). All rights reserved under U.S. and international law.

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