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Police Arrest Twelve Protesting the Removal of Trees on Avenida Guadalupe

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By Jesús Aguado

The government has changed its mind yet again about a controversial relocation of several ornamental trees on Avenida Guadalupe as it tears up and widens the roadway in a major reconstruction project that has closed the road to traffic.

First, the local government said the trees would be replanted at schools. Then they mentioned the Parque Bicentenario. Now they have come up with the idea of planting them in public plazas and other spaces in rural communities, parks, and even churches.

Activists have protested moving the trees, saying that the trees’ roots are interconnected and that if one is removed, it will damage the bases of the others. They also have raised concerns that this is not the ideal season in which to transplant the trees, and so, as a result, most of them will die.

Nevertheless, San Miguel de Allende’s Secretary of Government Gonzalo González says that the government will enforce its right to move the trees.

Director of Public Works and Infrastructure Antonio Soria told Atención that the trees are mistreated there and that they will have a better life after the relocation. Environmentalist expert Lorena Patiño added that the trees’ roots naturally follow humidity, and so they are actually damaging the pavement. She is convinced that 80 to 90 percent of the transplanted trees will survive.

In a press release, the local government said the trees would be relocated in places like a chapel in the Los González rural community, a park in the Puente del Carmen community, in Parque de los Insurgentes in the community of San Antonio del Varal, and in an unspecified location in the rural community of Soasnabar. Some will be transplanted to locations in San Miguel’s urban area, including the public garden in the Los Santos neighborhood, in the landscaped areas of the mall at La Luciérnaga, and also to a public space in the Bellavista neighborhood.

“The final destination of the trees will be determined according to the natural characteristics of the zones, with the aim of achieving the survival of the plants in the most suitable land,” González said.

Chaos

The government arrived with heavy machinery to remove the trees overnight on October 14, around 1:30am. Police arrested 12 protestors at the scene and transferred them to the local jail. In a press release, the local government stated that 10 of the arrestees were Mexicans, all over 18. Two were foreign nationals, a Colombian woman and a German man. The latter, according to the release, could not prove his legal residency status in México, and police turned him over to immigration authorities. The Colombian and the German were charged with involving themselves in Mexico’s political issues, which violates Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution.

At 1pm that day, at least 100 people gathered at the Jardín Principal to hold a peaceful demonstration against the tree removal, but also to request the release of the 12 arrested demonstrators. One hour later, the crowd headed to Avenida Guadalupe, where they reached one end of the avenue. Using force, the police herded the crowd to the other end and erected an iron fence to keep people out of the construction area. Officers remained guarding the enclosed area.Heavy machinery arrived again to the area guarded by police officers and began removing two trees.

At first, protestors simply shouted at the workers and the officers guarding them. However, when some citizens tried to cross the fence, the intensity of the situation increased, with physical confrontations between demonstrators and police officers. The tension remained until after a couple of hours, a representative of the protestors gathered them together and told them that the local government was closed off to discussion and that they could not prevent the trees from being removed. She invited the crowd to keep fighting nonviolently.

In an interview later that day, Secretary González told Atención that Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal’s administration will plant 1,000 more trees around the city and that Secretariat of National Defense will donate 10,000 more to be planted throughout San Miguel.

The construction and the removal of trees will continue, he said, enforced to the full extent of the law. Those physically interfering the project could be investigated by the Ministerio Público, he added. As we went to press one tree had been removed.

A project long in the works

Antonio Soria, director of infrastructure and public works for the city, told us that the project to resurface Avenida Guadalupe has been in the works for several years. When Plaza Guadalupe business owners requested help from the city to do improvements there, they presented the government with the arcade idea, which has now been folded into the current improvement project. The arcade will have cantera-lined columns and arches and a concrete roof. It will extend from calle San Rafael to calle Insurgentes.

When the city decided to resurface Avenida Guadalupe with stamped concrete, it presented the arcade idea to the city’s trade unions, who not only agreed to the reconstruction but also committed to contributing more than 7,000 pesos for the cantera and stone arcade. The unions will collect funds from the merchants affected.

The changes coming with the construction will be more than cosmetic. The city will more strictly regulate the business stands there, requiring that shopkeepers not use pedestrian space to display their merchandise. The city wants to leave a clear walking space for customers on foot, “like the arcades in the main squares [in the city],” says Soria.

The municipal government share will cover 70 percent of the cost.

The 21.5-million-peso work began in September and will finish in March 2020.

 

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