For many years it has been suggested that the Interior Secretariat, or the Secretaría de Gobernación, be moved from Bucareli Street out to the boondocks. The suggestion has not been paid attention to by the federal government, but maybe, the time to make the change has arrived.
Over the past two weeks Mexico City has experienced one of its worst pollution crises and city authorities are truly alarmed because “Smogitlán” (smog city in makeshift Aztec, as humor has it) is only getting worse.
The big problem with the Interior Secretariat is its location in the old “Cobián Palace” on Bucareli Street, a site that is the protesting venue of an average of 1,000 demonstrations a year, that is, an average of nearly three per day.
Demonstrators have learned since 1977 that if you want the federal government to listen to your cause, just occupy Bucareli Street and they’ll come running to negotiate in order to have the protesters clear out the street on the double.
As it happens, Bucareli Street is Mexico City’s main north-south transit thoroughfare and protesters have learned this very well. The moment demonstrators occupy Bucareli, traffic jams up for miles on the north side of the city with choking results.
Protesters have developed a sort of cynicism because they know that by pressuring the federal government with this occupation of Bucareli Street, they damage the city as a whole.
To quote farming lands demanding demonstration leader, Francisco Jiménez of the Plan of Ayala Agrarian Movement from the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Guerrero, Hidalgo and Morelos last Tuesday, they agreed with Interior Secretariat officials to take negotiations out of the street and move them to a suitable place. Several hundred members of the movement occupied Bucareli on Monday and staged a sit in (or on) demonstration.
As if they were doing Mexico City residents a favor, Jiménez said:
“Lifting out sit on demonstration is a show of solidarity with the city. We understand they are having (smog) problems at this moment and what we propose to the residents of the city is that they not be indifferent to the problems of the indigenous peoples of this country.”
And away they went but not before the leaders of the protesters got to negotiate with Interior under-secretary Luis Miranda.
These marches began back in 1977 — before that they were repressed and disbanded — when then Interior Secretary Jesús Reyes Heroles began with the “political aperture” towards democracy.
But as Reyes Heroles let political fresh air into the stifling one party plutocracy, all sorts of demonstrations started taking place on Bucareli Street, not because of the street itself, but due to the location of the Gobernación building.
So the problem is not Bucareli Street, named after a Spanish viceroy, but the “Cobián Palace” located on it and the centralized sense of government as practiced in Mexico. (It was named Cobián after the first owner, who built the mansion back in 1903. The mansion was seized by the government for Cobián’s tax evasion fraud, and in 1910 it served as the US Embassy).
Perhaps it’s been politically good for demonstrators to have learned that by choking the city they will get some official heed from officials at Gobernación but the location of the building has turned devastating for the city itself.
Just as the last batch of demonstrators were leaving Bucareli Street last Tuesday, Cuauhtémoc borough Mayor Ricardo Monreal went personally to the building to suggest that the central government offices of the Interior Secretariat be moved somewhere else with the very idea of preventing demonstrations on Bucareli Street.
Monreal’s proposal is not new. In past times it’s been suggested it be moved next to the Navy Secretariat in southeastern Mexico City, where the federal government owns plenty of land and for sure, nobody will go there to demonstrate. And if they do, they will not choke downtown Mexico City.
But will President Enrique Peña Nieto pay attention to the plea not just of city dwellers but also of street merchants, whose economy has been devastated by the demonstrations? The voice of reason says that you just can’t run the nation’s politics from Bucareli Street.
The time has come for decentralization.