The Narco News Bulletin

August 15, 2018 | Issue #67 - Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America

Mexico City Police Clash With Neighborhood Opposing Superhighway

Riot Squad Attacks Nonviolent Blockade That Sought to Negotiate with City Government; Four Injured

By Fernando León and Erin Rosa
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

October 20, 2010
This report appears on the internet at

At approximately 11:05 p.m. last night Mexico City riot police attacked and dispersed a street blockade that had been organized by a neighborhood opposing the city government's plans to build a superhighway. Residents of La Malinche, a colonia in the southwest of the city located in the Magdalena Contreras delegation, had peacefully occupied the main intersection of Luis Cabrera and Avenida San Bernabé earlier in the afternoon to try and negotiate with the government to remove construction workers from their neighborhood. Narco News reporters were on the ground in La Malinche when residents decided to take the intersection and during the confrontation with the police.

Photo: DR 2010 Courtesy of Magdalena Contreras Cabrera Facebook Page
Once an estimated 200 riot police had formed the line facing one side of the blockade on Avenida Luis Cabrera, an officer in charge of the riot police shouted into a megaphone to the people that they had one minute to clear the area, or that the police would take it by force. The crowd remained, and women took up the first line in front of the shields. After less than a minute, the police began to move forward step by step with their shields and batons, using pepper spray as the people on the other side gathered to lock arms and push back against the shields. When the police line passed and forced back the people from makeshift barricades that had been built out of furniture and wood in the intersection, they moved to cut off access to an adjacent side of Avenida San Bernabé. Once they had blocked off the two entryways to the streets they then charged at the crowd with the batons and shields, forcing people to immediately run in the opposite direction out of the intersection and further down the other part of Avenida San Bernabé that was not blocked off.

At least four people were injured in the skirmish. Edgar Iván, 17, reported being sprayed in the eyes by the police. Two women suffered head wounds. Another man who was unconscious with an unspecified injury was taken to the hospital. At the time of the confrontation there were approximately 300 residents in the intersection, the majority of them women, many who had their children with them.

Residents of La Malinche have halted the government's work on the superhighway since July, when they organized an indefinite sit-in to keep machines out of the construction zone in their neighborhood. For the last two years years, Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard and his administration have moved forward with plans to build a private toll-fare superhighway from the south of the city to the country's affluent Santa Fe financial district in the west. As the government began destroying 51 apartment buildings and housing lots in La Malinche over the summer, residents created the Broad Front Against the Western Superhighway and began the sit-in, calling the construction a "death project" to their neighborhood.

Yesterday morning at 8 a.m., neighbors say that 30 workers with the city government snuck into construction areas surrounding the sit-in to begin cleaning up debris from the houses that had already been destroyed. The hired workers were from La Malinche and lived in houses neighboring the sit-in. Residents and the Front claim that some of the workers were drunk. A confrontation ensued, leaving two residents in the city's Hospital General Xoco and one worker, identified as Jose Luis Raigosa, in jail. "The Broad Front Against the Western Superhighway, a peaceful and nonpartisan citizens movement, is once again beaten at the the permanent sit-in in La Malinche," said a statement released by the Front after the incident. "Some of [the workers] were drunk or others were on drugs, those who repressed elderly people, women and child, leaving two neighbors with first and second degree injuries." The remaining workers continued throughout the day.

Photo: D.R. 2010 Fernando León
When Narco News reporters arrived on the scene later that afternoon, the workers were still there and a group of two dozen neighbors had gathered to watch. Residents said that the city government had promised to send general coordinator of strategic projects and a liaison for the city government Jesús Lucatero Rivera into the zone to stop the workers, but hours went by and nobody showed up. Lucatero Rivera has been accused by the Front of bringing other people into La Malinche to beat residents opposing the superhighway, and has a a long history of alleged corruption. Done with waiting, the neighbors decided to take action. After briefly conferring with each other, the residents and the Front agreed create a blockade in the intersection during rush hour at approximately 4:30 p.m. to negotiate with the government to stop the construction work.

As the neighbors moved into the street the bells of the Del sagrado corazón de Jesús Catholic church began to ring, calling residents to join in the blockade. By that time the crowd had grown to 70 people. Residents blocked traffic with their bodies. To protect the sit-in, neighbors used parked cars to create a number of organized street blockades around the construction zone.

Once the blockade was in place, members of the Front said they would not leave the intersection until Delegation Chief Eduardo Hernández met with them in person and agreed to stop the construction work that had happened in the morning. "We are here and we will not go until the Delegation Chief or those responsible for this project come and guarantee that they will not violate our rights," said Rafael Martínez, one of the leaders who helped organize thee Front and the sit-in. "And we want that the workers not re-enter right now or tomorrow."

Hours passed as the number of people occupying the intersection began to grow. Martinez announced that officials from the Delegation had called to ask if the blockade and Hernández could negotiate over the phone, but the crowed responded with a resounding "No!" The riot police began to form a line around one side of the blockade on Avenida Luis Cabrera at 9:45 pm. On the other side of the police line was Martín Juárez, a representative for the city government, who offered to form a commission of 10 people to go and talk to Hernández about the superhighway at a later time. Again, the crowd responded with a "No!" after Martinez asked for the neighbors' opinion. All of the actions were decided by an organized assembly of the neighbors. Finally, Martín Juárez said that Hernández would come to negotiate in person, but behind the police line. The blockade agreed to wait for his arrival. However, the promise appeared to be a ruse, as minutes after that at 11:05 p.m. the police attacked the crowd and took the intersection by force.

The city government released a statement yesterday in response to the morning incident stating that "the government reiterates its commitment to maintain a constant channel of communication with the neighbors to get their opinions and address their requests in order to help improve their quality of life." But with the police attack on the blockade, Mayor Ebrard's idea of what qualifies as "negotiating" with the residents of La Malinche is clear now. The city government it prepared and willing to use physical force to fight opposition to the superhighway. All of La Malinche saw that yesterday night.

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