News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
At 5 pm Thursday afternoon, what seemed to be an invading army took the Condesa by storm, as a convoy of vehicles with flashing lights rolled down Avenida Tamaulipas, accompanied by uniformed forces the size of a field army.
But in fact, it was nothing more than show of force by police and other authorities from the local Cuauhtemoc delegación, who came with police patrol cars, motorcycles, trucks, tow trucks, and even a riot squad bus. It’s something they call an “operativo”, which is one of those rare moments when they pretend to care about enforcing the law in the city.
In this instance Thursday, it meant towing away improperly parked cars and hauling in franjeleos (the ubiquitous and highly annoying people who act like they own the streets, and try to charge you money to park in public spots). The police even removed tables, chairs, and anything else that they claimed was “unauthorized” along Condesa sidewalks — even valet parking stands.
The theatrical display occurred on Tamaulipas, Michoacán, Nuevo León, and Mazatlán.
As local restaurants and cafés saw what was coming, they raced to remove sidewalk tables and chairs, before the authorities had a chance to seize them.
In fact, a barista at one of the local cafés told us that the last time the police came marching through on an operativo like this, they were not only seizing tables and chairs, they even went so far as to smash wooden benches with a sledgehammer at his café.
This is what passes for “law enforcement” in Mexico City?
In all, police report that they removed 350 pieces of equipment from in front of restaurants and cafes, while towing away some 30 vehicles. Three taxi bases were also shut down, and at least 28 franjeleros were taken into police custody during the “festivities” in Condesa and Roma Thursday.
They even found something they didn’t like with the historic Sep’s restaurant at the corner of Michoacán and Tamaulipas, closing them down and plastering “clausurado” (closed by authority of the city) over the restaurant’s shutters.
If we didn’t know any better, we’d applaud the operation as a move to clean up the streets and enforce the law. But we know how things still operate in Mexico — particularly in Mexico City and elsewhere in the south of the country. (The North has better respect for the law.)
In reality, we know this was just another theatrical show, just as it is when the police make a show of cracking down on street vendors selling pirated goods. (The vendors just move elsewhere, and then inevitably return to their original locations in due time. And of course they keep selling illegal pirated merchandise, in plain view in front of police.)
Already, as of Friday afternoon — a mere one day later — things are back to normal in the Condesa. Franjeleros are still taking ownership of public space, the sidewalks are mostly back to normal, the streets are overflowing with cars parked on street corners, double-parked, and even left in crosswalks — in other words, it’s business as usual.
And “business as usual” also means local officials will no doubt be returning to their customary action of soliciting mordidas (bribes) from local business owners, in order to not shut down their cafes, restaurants, bars, and small enterprises for any sort of imagined violation of regulations.
And we already have ample evidence (as with the case of the law-breaking CNTE teachers union who continue to run amok without any law enforcement) that the city’s missing-in-action mayor, Miguel Angel Mancera, doesn’t care about upholding the law in the biggest city in the Americas.
Rule of law? Not in Mexico City.