Friday, October 4, 2013

Mexico City rioters caused almost $4 million in damages; PRI, PAN and PRD call for tough laws on street violence

For once, all the mainstream parties are on the same page

*Updated Oct. 5 - DF businesses have lost $100 million USD since June 25 due to public protests*
Guadalajara -
Leaders of Mexico's three major political parties are demanding a crackdown on violence during public protests in the nation's capital, which has been subjected to six consecutive weeks of unlawful sit-ins and at times highly destructive demonstrations by striking school teachers and ultra leftist groups.

Representatives of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the National Action Party (PAN) all agree that something must be done after the public release of preliminary reports which indicate that self-described anarchists caused damages of an estimated 50 million pesos ($3.85 million USD) during a Wednesday march. Youthful rioters injured many persons, including over two dozen police officers, and engaged in wanton property destruction along some of Mexico City's busiest and most prestigious avenues. Many retail establishments were looted by the masked or hooded protesters. More than 100 were arrested, but only 19 remain in custody today.

On Monday another police officer was severely injured when he was attacked by striking school teachers who belong to the far left and frequently violent CNTE union. Radical teachers' syndicate returns to Mexico City streets, attacking police.

PRD - Mexico's largest left wing party - controls the Federal District government, and leaders say that within the next 15 days the local legislature will vote on a recently introduced bill to make an assault against a police officer a far more serious crime, without the right to bail or conditional release while charges are pending.

Such assaults currently carry a prison term of six months to two years in jail, together with a fine, making the crime the functional equivalent of a misdemeanor in some U.S. jurisdictions. A pending bill would raise the sentence to three to seven years, rendering the offense more like a felony under American criminal law. Any assault against a police officer is considered a serious offense in most U.S. courts, and generally carries severe penalties.

A PRD legislator in the Federal District assembly who supports the pending bill noted, "The social reality is that today many demonstrations are being carried to the point of violence, so we must adjust our criminal statutes to deal with that fact, but without interfering with the constitutionally protected right to participate in protest marches."

But leaders of Mexico's center left PRI, which holds the presidency, and the conservative center right PAN, are not to be outdone by PRD's legislative proposals. All three parties - whose membership greatly outnumbers that of the ultra left MORENA, which is still organizing and holds no legislative seats anywhere at either the federal or state level - are sending a very public signal that they've had enough of the violence which is costing District merchants millions in lost revenues, and according to some analysts may be harming the capital's reputation to the point of driving away visitors, especially international ones.

This Red Brigade in Guadalajara advertised contempt for all three of Mexico's main political parties.

Some PAN senators in the federal congress have introduced a bill which would enable authorities to terminate "illegal protests running contrary to established practices, which disrupt public order or may result in violence in the Federal District," contending that they have authority to legislate on a local matter since the seat of the national congress is in Mexico City. The PAN proposal would also allow police to shut down any demonstration which presented an imminent threat to persons or property, or interfered with traffic flow on major thoroughfares. Jurisdictional issues apart, the very broad language of such a proposal might raise constitutional issues in a nation where the right to protest is enshrined in core law just as it is in the United States, and is highly prized (Happy Birthday, First Amendment).

The determination of mainstream politicians to deal with street violence in the Federal District is not surprising. The radical teachers' union CNTE occupied Mexico City's huge Zócalo from Aug. 19 until Sept. 13, when its members were finally evicted by federal security forces. The violent union forced the senate and the house of deputies to relocate legislative operations to private office facilities during part of that time, and left considerable physical damage - together with more than 80 tons of trash - in the capital's largest plaza. Economic damages occasioned to local businesses have been estimated at $20 to $60 million USD, leaving some small proprietors virtually insolvent. The Federal District's PRD government announced last month that it was opening lines of credit to compensate merchants. Secret Service locks down Mexico City's Zócalo. As a result of Wednesday's violence, authorities will have to shell out yet more cash to proprietors who sustained losses during hours of street rioting.

This class in Revolution 101 met Wednesday evening in Guadalajara, in the middle of Calle Vallarta - and they behaved responsibly, as young adult citizens enjoying the right to demonstrate peacefully. A small contingent of police detoured traffic and protected them until they were ready to leave.

PAN representatives also want new administrative rules designed to regulate protests. Demonstrators would have to secure a permit 72 hours in advance, describing the purpose or nature of the event, the beginning and ending point of the march, the planned route, the estimated number of participants and what private security measures would be undertaken to protect both marchers and the general public. Protests would be limited to the hours between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. In the U.S., administrative regulations of public protests have been upheld by courts provided they are reasonable in scope and do not prohibit or deter the fundamental right to assemble. Permits must be issued to all applicants on exactly the same terms, without regard to the underlying political or social content of the event.

Although PRI representatives have not offered their own remedial legislation to deal with the weeks of violence in the Federal District, they strongly condemned this week's events, especially the attacks against police, and will likely sign on board with at least some of the pending PRD or PAN proposals.

Oct. 5 - Canacope-Servytur (Cámara de Comercio, Servicios y Turismo en Pequeño de la Ciudad de México), a trade organization which represents small and medium size businesses in the Federal District, claims that between June 25 and Oct. 2, protest marches, illegal sit-ins and demonstrations in Mexico City cost the local economy $1.3 billion pesos - a staggering $100 million USD. That won't help an already reeling national economy that may be lucky to grow 1% this year.

Oct. 5 - Demonstrating the close link between CNTE and the self-described anarchists, about 2,500 union members marched again this afternoon, demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the rioters who remain in jail facing charges of public disorder, assault and looting.

Guadalajara: A hammer and sickle in the background, a Hero of Havana in the foreground. How many of the demonstrators actually knew his name, what he did or how he died is a different question.

Oct. 6 - La CNTE está perfectamente organizada . . . Nosotros, no
Oct. 3 - Anarchists in Mexico City, October 2, 2013
Oct. 2 - Mexico City police attacked by self-proclaimed anarchists; the Red Banner in Guadalajara
Sept. 25 - MORENA recruits in Guadalajara
Sept. 17 - Secret Service locks down Mexico City's Zócalo
Sept. 19 - Mexico's Left determined to shackle the nation to the past

Mar. 26, 2014 - Quintana Roo governor in the crosshairs over "fascist" anti-protest law

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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