Violence, anarchy and impunity in the center of Mexico City

A destitute burned and a violent attack on clients and staff of the Hostería La Bota, a well-known restaurant whose parishioners are also foreign tourists, are just two recent events that exemplify the escalation of violence in the Historic Center of Mexico City and the abandonment step by step of the authorities.

Historic center of Mexico City safety
Historic center of Mexico City safety

The Historical Center of Mexico City, the heart of the country, was left on its own and now "dies" slowly, denouncing inhabitants, employees and even those who only visit it. The authorities neglected the zone when leaving the security and now, without any effective control, the decline is made more agile, add those affected.

Assaults, uncontrolled ambulatory, little regulation in nightclubs, drug dealing and a growing wave of violence is what is perceived in the first picture of the capital of the country, while, at the same time, there is a "total absence of the authorities", citizens coincide in interviews and also in complaints made on social networks.

The Historical Center has lost around 302 thousand inhabitants since the 1950s, according to information from the Government of Mexico City. The regeneration of this place is not a new issue: it has been an argument in many speeches by various authorities and even actions and investments have been made for its recovery.

When the present President of the Republic, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was Head of Government of Mexico City, the Consultative Council for the Rescue of the Historical Center of Mexico City was installed in August 2001.

The Committee was composed of high-level business, cultural and political personalities, among its members, were the businessman Carlos Slim Helú and José Iturriaga, who was named honorary president; there were also writers and intellectuals, as well as high-level officials.

In subsequent years, actions were carried out and important budget items were allocated for the rescue of the first capital chart. In two decades, about 16 billion pesos were invested in the 10.28 square kilometers that comprise the central zone, with money from the private sector, governments, and society, according to a diagnosis prepared by the Center's Authorities, the Government of Mexico City.

However, little by little the rescue project was left in oblivion and the recovery was left to the side. So much so that today citizens live their accelerated decline.

The center of the Mexico City also presents a marked deterioration of cultural heritage: 62 percent of the more than 743 properties cataloged for conservation is in a condition of regular to bad, according to official information. In addition, 75 percent of the informal trade properties are warehouses.

The same diagnosis establishes that there are areas with a high incidence of crime in at least 50 percent of the territory that includes the Historic Center, an area bounded on the north by the República de Honduras street; to the south by José María Izazaga street; to the east by the Anillo de Circunvalación Avenue, and to the west by Paseo de la Reforma Avenue.

Residents and inhabitants have denounced, both in interviews and in social networks, that the authorities in charge and the capital and federal governments have neglected this historic place.

In November 2018, Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, then Head of Government elected, announced a new plan to "revitalize the center", whose axes of action are based on habitability, competitiveness and community work, and urban quality.

Insecurity and abandonment

A destitute burned, as well as a violent attack on customers and staff of Hosteria La Bota, a well-known restaurant that also attracts multiple tourists, including foreigners, are just two recent events that exemplify the escalation of violence in the area and the abandonment that its residents, employees, and visitors feel.

Penelope is a woman who for five years has worked in the surrounding areas of the historic center, and notes that in recent months "the area has become very conflictive."

In 2018 alone, at least 55 intentional homicides were registered in the central zone of the Mexico City that, alleged by the authorities, allegedly would be linked to executions between criminal groups or would also be attributable to criminal groups.

On January 28 around 11 at night, clients and staff of Hosteria La Bota were violated by at least six people. It is presumed that the attack was due to the fact that the waiters did not allow two men to bother two of their clients who, apparently, demanded money from them through harassment; that is, a possible new form of assault.

The events took place in Calle San Jerónimo, a small corridor of restaurants and bars in the Historic Center. Two male customers arrived at the restaurant bar and sat at one of the tables. Behind the diners, two other subjects arrived with intimidating body language, explained witnesses to the events.

Erick, one of the waiters at La Bota, tells Sin Embargo that he first gave attention to the two diners, went to the bar for the customers' request and then, seeing the two subjects and noticing that they were harassing the customers. , he decided to ask them to leave the restaurant.

"The customers commented that the two subjects apparently wanted to steal," the employee points out.

The waiter's request annoyed the two subjects, who began verbally assaulting the employee and telling him that "they now had a direct problem" with him. Moments later, the two men began beating the waiter.

"One of the subjects, when I asked him to leave, told me that he 'was here, the one', I asked him to let me work, that they were in my work zone, but he told me that the problem was now with me ", Narrates the young man.

Ricardo, another witness of the place, says that from the beginning, police attention was requested to notice the tension that the two aggressors caused since their arrival.

"Two subjects arrived, trying to intimidate two of the clients who were in the place, and who had arrived recently. Their intention was, apparently, to ask for money. My partner Erick tried to help the clients, inviting the two subjects to leave the establishment. As I approached and saw the attitude in which the two of them were, I approached the leader of the bar, to report the situation and request that he call the police, because he feared that the situation would escalate. As of that moment, our contact with the operators of the 911 was practically continuous, because another colleague also tried to call the police, "the other witness recounts.

When the pair of subjects attacked the waiter, the employee tried to defend himself and his colleagues left to try to help him. The fight lasted a few minutes; later, the two subjects left the place. The clients and staff thought that the violent chapter was over, but it was not like that.

One of the baristas asked the customers to apologize and offered a round, explained that the bar was a quiet place and that this type of violent incidents had never occurred.

However, the fact was not there: soon after, the two men returned with more people to cause damage and attack those present. At least six individuals broke into the bar, threw the tables at the customers, broke bottles and beat the people of the place, mainly the employees.

The group of assailants went into the kitchen, where they hit the face and broke the nose of a chef, another employee, threw him on the floor and kicked his face.

The balance of the attack was at least six people wounded, two seriously: one with a fractured nose, an injury that required surgery, and another employee with broken ribs, so much so that they almost pierced a lung.

The witnesses and employees narrate that, while the attack was taking place, they saw a patrol moving slowly along the street Isabel La Católica, some 100 meters away, they beckoned and asked for help, but the patrol officers ignored them, they went on.

The aggression lasted about 15 minutes and was videotaped by the security cameras of the restaurant, which was recently broadcast on social networks.

The writer Antonio Calera, one of the owners of the bar, explained that after the attack the affected ones went to raise the complaint before the Public Ministry, and asked for help to an ambulance that was in the place, but the unit only gave "primary" attention, refusing to transfer the injured to a hospital.

"Pepé, the companion who broke his nose, just took his glasses off, gave him gauze and told him to 'squeeze' him, and nothing else. Although he lost a lot of blood, they refused to transfer him to the hospital, arguing that of course protocol ", says Edwin, another witness of the facts.

The prosecutors asked the owners of the bar not to open the next day, Tuesday, January 29, because they were going to send criminologist personnel, however, the experts never arrived.

Also, the first record lifted did not work. Antonio Calera Globet explains that at the moment when the victims went to the capital attorney's office to ratify the complaint, they were told that the first act did not work and they had to raise it again.

"Hopefully we can have a relationship, not only educated but professional, forceful, accurate, with the Government," the interviewee demands.

Investigation files initiated by the assault on passers-by in the downtown area almost doubled last year compared to 2017, registering an increase of 91.70 percent, going from 366 reports of robbery with violence in 2017 to 700 reports in 2018, according to data from the capital attorney's office.

In January 2019, at least 40 complaints have been filed for assault in the downtown area. In 2016, at least 264 complaints were filed.

The complaints about the crime of rape only in the first table of Mexico City are also increasing, and agglomerate at least 40 cases from 2016 to January 2019. Three in the current year; 16 in 2018, 12 in 2017 and 9 in 2016.

The investigations for robbery with violence to business also show an upward trend. The PGJE-CdMx reports 203 research folder records initiated from 2016 to January 2019. At least 13 in January 2019, in 2018, 89 cases were reported, 56 in 2017 and 45 in 2016.

Other attacks and fights have been reported constantly in the sector.

On February 1, a homeless person was burned while sleeping in the streets of the Historic Center, according to information disseminated in the media.

The body was located totally burned on a sidewalk of the street Bolivia. The Attorney General's Office of Mexico City (PGJE-CdMx) reported that it had taken note of the incident; however, until now no further details of the event have been provided.

The capital attorney's office reports, different from the data provided in the diagnosis of the Authorities of the Historical Center, 64 murders in the central area from 2016 to January 2019. The number of intentional homicides has been increasing: in 2016, they report 20 cases; in 2017, 19 cases; 2018, 23 murders, and 2 in January 2019.

Residents and merchants believe that the figures are higher, that there is a high index of people who do not report since they point out that there is a pattern in the preventive authorities of urging the victims not to take legal action.

"When there is an assault, what the authorities do, they try to dissuade the citizen [...] There is always a discouragement, she is always invited not to do it. Here we do not necessarily suffer that, what we received from the police is that he arrived late, for 15 minutes he did not arrive, and when it arrives, the speed to carry out justice is always slow, it is delayed and if justice is not expeditious it is not justice , justice cannot take ", comments the author Antonio Calera.

How bad is crime in Mexico City?

"What happened? Why did the environment become so impoverished?" The writer, Antonio Calera Grobet, is outraged at the increase in violence in the area.

Calera Grobet emphasizes that they feel abandoned by the authorities and assures that the police work in an epidermal way, preferring to stalk people for minor administrative faults, but at the time they are required for an emergency they are not there.

"It's easier, everyone knows, to come here to chase someone when they're smoking marijuana, or drinking on the street, to come when they're hitting someone. Suspiciously, I do not want to say that all the police are in conspiracy with the thugs, but strangely, mysteriously or suspiciously, they are always late. [...] when a gallant, deep, deep-seated attitude is required, it never appears. Always are late. When in our life have we felt safe when a policeman comes? they are not synonymous with protection, "he claims.

In this coincides his brother, Adrián Calera, one of the owners of La Bota, who believes that the authorities of the historic center have been overwhelmed, in the absence of police elements.

"In San Jerónimo Street, it is very easy for the police to go when someone commits an administrative fault. There, at that moment, the law comes in a short time, because this work does not pose a risk to them, two police elements can perform this task [...], also 'the bite' is an incentive to go. But if a restaurant is being violated or if a group of people hit a passerby [...], two elements do not have the capacity to subdue the criminals, so they are afraid to act. In the two past cases that I expose and that often happen in the Historical Center, the police always disappear, "exemplifies the restaurateur entrepreneur.

The writer calls the authorities to change the image of the police, and to act, not only in their case but for all citizens and not only in the central area but throughout the country.

"I do not ask that you privilege me with special security. I do not want that they protect me and my family, or only my clients, thinking that my clients are different from those of a paletearía in Cuemanco, or a burger shop in Gustavo A. Madero, no. I ask that they protect me like any other citizen, that it does not have to be that you, as a policeman, receive the call of eight or nine people who are demanding respect and that you accelerate and leave, that is cowardice, negligence, collusion, that's not for me to define it. "

And he adds that they must also be aware that citizens, at any point, "disagree with the way in which justice has been carried out. What we ask is that they comply with their work, and their obligation to provide is security. " Antonio Calera highlights that security at a crucial point if you really want to have a transformation in the country. "There will never be any transformation if they do not stop disappearances, violence, and murders in this country," he explains.

The Secretary of Public Security of Mexico City, Jesús Orta Martínez, indicated that behind the attack on Hosteria La Bota some organized crime group would be involved, however, he did not want to specify more details, according to information from national media.

Questioned on the subject, Orta Martínez responded that he will later announce "a new work scheme" in various points of the historic center.

Faced with insecurity in the area, it is more frequent to find complaints.

The Office of the Attorney General of Mexico City, Ernestina Godoy, acknowledged weeks ago that citizenship was abandoned by security authorities.

"They really gave us a city in a disastrous state of security [...] I think there was a neglect on the part of the institutions towards what must be the central concern of every government: the tranquility of the people, the people she feels identified with her institutions, that she feels confident in her institutions, that was abandoned, "says Godoy Ramos.

The Prosecutor said however that the crimes in Mexico City grew as a result of the defenselessness in which they left the capital.

"There is a feeling that the city walked alone, that the citizens are alone in terms of services, security and fighting corruption. The evaluation that I can make of the previous administration and how they left us this city is quite bad, "says the lawyer.

Between July and December of last year, there was a significant increase in all crimes, mainly that of intentional homicide and that committed with a firearm. "This is one of the indicators we have to say that there was indeed an abandonment on the part of the security institutions," he reiterates.

Another of the aspects that Godoy Ramos recognized in the Attorney General's Office is that no investigation was being done.

"I think [it was not investigated] because of lack of will, because of a lack of willingness to do it, because we have almost 4,000 investigative police in the city. We have an entire research police building with equipment. Maybe also lack of training and professionalization in research. I see some investigative police officers who are very creative because they know research techniques, they follow a line, they go for another, they open several lines of research and there are others that do not, "said the capital official.

The administration of Miguel Ángel Mancera maintained a strong silence and denied the operation of organized crime gangs in the City while the violence grew exponentially, especially the crimes associated with organized crime.

The murders of firearms grew 62.46 percent in 2018 if compared to 2016, since of 626 murders with a registered firearm, there were 1 thousand 017 murders registered in 2018.

Intentional homicide in different modalities rose 16.44 percent in 2018 (1 thousand 380 victims) compared to 2017, when 1,153 people were killed; in 2017, that crime increased 14.31 percent compared to 2016, when 988 victims were reported.

From January to December 2018, at least 1 thousand 213 people were killed in the capital of the country; of these 892 were attacked with a firearm, according to the figures of the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System (SESNSP). There are 60 more people than the total number of victims in all of 2017, a year that ended with a thousand 153 victims of intentional homicide.

Video footage of the attack on the Hosteria La Bota in the Historic Centre of Mexico City

The original text of this article was published by the Vanguardia at the following address.

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