President López Obrador said on Friday that “conservatives” are responsible for an estimated 100 million pesos in damage committed during Thursday’s fifth-anniversary protest march in Mexico City for the 43 students who disappeared in Guerrero in 2014.
The windows of several buildings were smashed, the facades of government offices, shops, banks and other businesses were vandalized, public monuments were defaced and the main door and walls of the National Palace were graffitied and damaged during the march that left the Angel of Independence on Reforma avenue in the late afternoon.
Hooded and masked protesters also looted a Gandhi bookstore in the capital’s downtown and attempted to set the shop on fire.
Speaking at his regular news conference, López Obrador described the acts of vandalism as “excesses” but rejected the claim that anarchists were to blame.
“Anarchism is productive, purposeful, a movement that is very profound in ideals,” he said.
“What happened yesterday is not anarchism. It’s a variation of conservatism, one of the many variations it has . . . How could those who destroy a bookstore be anarchists?” the president asked.
“This has nothing to do with the movement of the left, with the progressive movement . . .” López Obrador said, adding that it will be up to the Mexico City government to conduct an investigation into the vandalism that was committed.
The president said that those responsible behaved “very poorly” and don’t have the support of the general public.
“They’re conservatives that damage the legitimate and just [protest] movement of the families of the young men . . .” López Obrador said, using a word that he frequently applies to opponents of his leftist government.
“They didn’t even participate in the march, they went alongside it causing destruction,” he added.
About 5,000 people participated in Thursday’s march, which was led by the parents of the 43 students who were presumably killed after they were abducted in Iguala on September 26, 2014.
After a mass in honor of the missing students at the foot of the Angel of Independence monument, the vast majority of protesters marched peacefully to the zócalo, Mexico City’s central square.
The newspaper El Financiero reported that the first act of vandalism occurred about 20 minutes into the march when a small group of protesters smashed the windows of a restaurant on the ground floor of the Le Meridien hotel.
Made up of both men and women, the group continued its vandalism spree as the protest made its way down Reforma and then Juárez avenue, where the Gandhi bookstore is located.
At least 30 businesses and government buildings, including the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and the Mexico City Superior Court, were damaged during the march, which wasn’t directly monitored by police.
At about 6:30pm, when protesters had already reached the zócalo, a group of vandals damaged the door of the National Palace with mallets and makeshift weapons and spray painted the building’s façade.
In a radio interview on Friday morning, the president of the national restaurant association, Canirac, said the vandals caused damage that will cost “100 million pesos [US $5 million] at the very least” to repair.
“For [a protest of] two hours, it’s a lot. It’s not glass that can be replaced today,” Francisco Fernández Alonso said, referring to the windows that need to be repaired. “[That type of glass] isn’t sold in the supermarket.”
Efforts to remove graffiti began almost immediately on Thursday, while a conservation team started working at the National Palace early on Friday.
Fernández said that he supported people’s right to protest but urged authorities to send police to patrol marches to ensure that acts of vandalism are prevented.
“The march had a just cause but these types of activities detract from the goal of the protest,” he said.
The event took place hours after the federal government announced that eight recent search operations across 210 locations in Guerrero produced no “positive findings” in the case of the 43 missing students.
The government is conducting a new probe into the disappearance of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students, a case which cast a dark shadow over the administration of former president Enrique Peña Nieto.
Former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who announced the previous government’s widely criticized “historical truth” about what happened to the students, is one of several ex-officials the government intends to investigate in relation to the five-year-old tragedy.
Source: El Financiero (sp)