Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Local officials fired after 24 injured in protest over Xochimilco hydraulic project

Mexico City authorities have fired two local government officials, after clashes between police and protesters against a hydraulic project in San Gregorio Atlapulco, Xochimilco, left 24 people injured.

The clashes occurred when dozens of police officers were deployed to clear roadblocks erected by protesters near Xochimilco city hall on Friday. Videos of the confrontation show riot police jostling protesters and appearing to throw stones and vandalize a car.

Emigdio Tonatiuh Ávila Obispo, director general of the political consultation of the southern zone, and Luis Adrián Huerta Laguna, director general of the Metropolitan Police Unit Task Force, were removed from their posts two days later.

“In the Mexico City government there is no tolerance for police abuse,” read a statement by the head of government on Sunday. “The behavior of the commanders in San Gregorio Atlapulco, in the Xochimilco City Hall last Friday was improper, therefore, the head of government, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, has asked the Human Rights Commission of Mexico City to carry out the corresponding investigation.”

During the confrontation, vandalizing a parked car and roughly grabbing elderly people present at the protest. Both protesters and police were recorded throwing rocks, as seen in this compilation from the news platform Milenio.

The capital government also demanded better training for public officials, to ensure compliance with protocols on appropriate use of force and protection of human rights. The object of the protest, a drainage project being undertaken by the Mexico City Water System (Sacmex), has been temporarily suspended.

“Given the disagreement of some residents, SACMEX is ordered to suspend the works, and the Governance Ministry to continue dialogues to evaluate alternatives for the sanitation of the canals,” the statement continued.

The project seeks to install a wastewater collector in the area of the Xochimilco canals. According to Sacmex, it will improve the capacity of the canals and reduce health risks caused by sewage accumulation, without depleting the water networks.

“The works are drainage and sanitation to protect the health of the population of Xochimilco,” Governance Minister Martí Batres said on Saturday. He pointed out that the works were requested by residents themselves, and several public meetings had been held about the project.

However, the protesters maintain that residents were not sufficiently consulted about the impacts of the project, nor provided with information about the bidding contracts. They fear that the wastewater collector will increase over-exploitation of the Xochimilco aquifers and exacerbate problems caused by sewage discharge from Milpa Alta.

The works are “insecure, inoperative, inefficient and expensive,” they said in a statement.

In its statement, the capital government acknowledged that several assemblies had taken place before commencing the works, but nonetheless committed to carrying out a clearer and more participatory process with the support of the local Human Rights Commission.

It emphasized that dialogue would continue “until it is perfectly clear that there will be nothing to encourage the privatization of social property on conservation land.”

With reports from Animal Político, Aristegui and Milenio

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