Monday, April 15, 2024

Borough offices still abandoned 15 years, 99 million pesos later

A property earmarked to become the main office for the government of the Mexico City borough of Coyoacán continues to lie abandoned 15 years after it was purchased for more than 99 million pesos.

Neither permission to change the permitted land use nor urban development approval to convert the property for its originally intended residential purpose have ever been granted, according to a report published today by the newspaper Milenio.

In addition, residents of the San Lucas neighborhood of Coyoacán — where the property is located — have opposed the project.

The building and land, with an area of more than 10,000 square meters, were bought during the administration of former Coyoacán borough chief María Rojo e Incháustegui for just under 99.4 million pesos (just under US $5 million at today’s exchange rate) in 2003, which Milenio said was more than double the property’s real market value.

Rojo — who is aiming to once again head up the Coyoacán government by contesting Sunday’s election as a Morena party candidate — reportedly sought the assistance of then-Mexico City government secretary, Alejandro Encinas, to speed up the bureaucratic process required to complete the purchase.

According to Milenio, Encinas and former finance undersecretary Gustavo Ponce — who was later jailed for 10 years for embezzlement of government funds — signed off on the allocation of resources and the property was paid for via a cash deposit to a bank.

Shortly after the transaction was completed, the former borough chief, who is also well-known for her career as an actress, took leave from her position to contest the 2003 elections for Mexico City’s legislative assembly.

Both she and Ponce have been accused of pocketing the difference between the property’s purchase price and its actual value, and that Rojo had run for deputy in order to obtain the fuero, or immunity from prosecution.

Raúl Flores, who succeeded Rojo as borough chief, told Milenio that when he took office he had no choice but to scrap the plan to move the government’s offices.

“I had to cancel the project because it didn’t have the neighbors’ approval. In addition, the cost of fitting out the offices and moving everything cost more than what the borough could pay at the time,” he said.

“Money was needed that year to deal with flooding and they took money from us, on the part of Andrés Manuel López Obrador — the then-mayor — for the [elevated road project known as] the second story,” Flores added.

He also said there was a proposal to donate the property to the Hospital of the Blind but the idea was ultimately rejected by the administration of Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard.

Milenio said San Lucas residents also lobbied Rojo before she left office to have the property donated in order to be converted into a cultural center but she declined the proposal.

Milenio sought comment from Rojo about the property and the transaction to acquire it but her campaign team responded that she had a full schedule and would be unable to speak on the matter.

A poll published by the newspaper El Financiero earlier this month showed that the Morena party candidate is on track to win the mayoral election in Coyoacán with 48% voter support.

A community representative from the San Lucas neighborhood said the property is “completely abandoned” and a source of insecurity for both residents and visitors to the borough.

“. . . But to the then-authorities it represented a 52-million-peso profit,” Elvira Rodríguez charged.

A visit to the site by a Milenio reporter confirmed that the property is in a state of complete abandonment with its facade covered with graffiti, 40 broken windows and a leaky roof among other problems.

Source: Milenio (sp), El Financiero (sp)

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