With the absolute endorsement of the administration of Miguel Ángel Mancera an area of 75 thousand square meters of public area of the Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca (Ciudad Deportiva Magdalena Mixhuca) will be privatized for the construction of the new Stadium of the Diablos Rojos (Red Devils) team. The usury of which will benefit Alfredo Harp Helú and his professional baseball team are based on an illegal process without contract nor drafts nor environmental or urban impact assessments, as reveal several entities of the Government of the Federal District (Mexico City) as the Director of the local Sports Institute (Instituto del Deporte, INDEPORTE), in charge of administering the sports installations. Nonetheless the project will be continued and will annihilate a vital area of Mexico City, consider supporters, specialists and legislators.
Lacking any contract or Environmental or Urban Impact Assessment at least, the government of Miguel Ángel Mancera has committed to deliver to Alfredo Harp Helú more than 7 hectares and a half of Sport City Complex Magdalena Mixhuca for the construction of the Stadium where they will perform the professional team of baseball the Diablos Rojos del México (the Red Devils of the (team of) Mexico).
According to the several responses given by the Secretariat of the Environment (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente, SEDEMA) as by the Sports Institute of the Federal District and the Municipality (Delegación) of Iztacalco, the head of government approved, presented, promoted and protected –with police force in the frontline- a project that will implicate to privatized thousands of square meters and the destruction of outliving flora and fauna.
The permit is issued and the construction plans under way. But neither are there any signed contracts, as admits in an interview the director of the INDEPORTE, Horacio de la Vega, nor is there anything written, just a presentation of pictures made by the foundation of the tycoon, assuming on their behalf the Office of the head of government.
No frequent users were consulted; to those who protested against the privatization and nightly logging the government responded to them with dozens of police forces and the clarification by Mancera himself that the Stadium goes first, and the warning that nothing, no outcry or rally would disrupt it.
The project, without environmental or urban impact assessment
The decision was already taken beforehand: the Government of the Federal District would do whatever it takes in order that the Diablos Rojos, property of Alfredo Harp Helú would have a warm home. Nonetheless the site may be public domain, the place and form would run on behalf of the administration of Miguel Ángel Mancera.
Since August 2014-months before the official announcement the owner of the team anticipated that “(the club) is already talking with the authorities of the Federal District and it is going to be in Magdalena Mixhuca. It will be an exclusive Stadium for baseball”, told euphorically from San Diego Harp Helú, who is also shareholder of the Padres of the ninth major league.
“It will be a well-established concession, for a veeery long term –he added- (…) you are all aware that if we place a good investment we will be able to stay there for many years.
“(It will be the option) that suits us best and I believe that the decision will be very quick. The authorities are more than willing to do sp. We will build a good stadium: the house of the Diablos Rojos del México team!”
And so was it. With all the possible willingness by the authorities and endorsed as fast as possible, the Government of the Federal District approved the building of the scarlet squad lacking of any impact assessment of the entry of heavy machinery to the sport complex and subsequently the construction of the solar inferno on the seven and a half hectares which the government of Mancera promised to the banker. The month set to begin the construction works (logging of trees, death and expulsion of the present animals) was due for March 2015.
On March 2015 Horacio de la Vega, Director of the Sports Institute of the Federal District, entity in charge of administering the Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca grants a brief interview to Contralínea during which he admits that the stadium will be built despite that the analysis and reports required by the law have not been carried out:” These (assessments) are currently being carried out. There is no resolution (yet)…but there is a procedure to do so, and commonly the paperwork, well, in the Secretariat of the Environment takes some time in order to issue that result…”
According to Horacio de la Vega the construction may start and advance simultaneously to the assessments that would indicate the damage that the construction is causing, which has started and is under way.
-“So the environmental impact assessment haven’t been carried out, or are they still in process?-so is inquired the public servant.
-“That is correct. These two processes (the environmental and the urban one) are running and it will not be available until sometime, as I cannot tell you when, because I am not the authority nor of the (Secretariat of) Environment nor of Urban Development. Any project existing within the city needs to have the environmental and urban mitigations.
-So why was the project presented before having the environmental and urban impact assessment ready and approved?
-No because…here…I repeat: the sports Institute has the faculty of use, utilization and operation (of the Sport City Complex). We have the faculty to carry out this kind of new projects then. But we have to meet the requirements to be able to do so. And the way we will, let’s say, meet them, are these mitigations…but this doesn’t call into question whether this project could be carried out or not. This doesn’t depend on them (the competent authorities). This depends (solely) on myself.
-Are you saying that the project is due regardless whether the assessments were carried out or not…
-The project could be approved in any area of the city, you name it, if you have the faculty available as the one of the (Sports) Institute for use, utilization and operation.
“This is very serious. To think that someone has the right to dispose of a piece of land and its natural area will be affecting third parties, for being a common good. (This) speaks of the impunity, the lack of knowledge of the law and the quality of our rulers”, analyses in an interview Dr. Luis Zambrano, executive secretary of the Ecological Reserve of the Pedregal de San Ángel of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México, UNAM).
The Environmental Law for the Protection of Land (Ley Ambiental de Protección a la Tierra) of the Federal District clearly points out what procedures Harp and his team and the associated authorities were obliged to meet.
Whoever wishes to carry out a project “beyond 10 thousand square meters of construction or new buildings on plots bigger than 5 thousand square meters for uses other than the residential one” is compelled to prevent an environmental impact evaluation before the Secretariat of the Environment, so that they evaluate it and where appropriate endorse the project (Art. 46, Fraction XVI).
“In order to obtain the authorization related to the environmental impact, the parties previously so the beginning of any works or activities, will have to present before the Secretariat the environmental impact assessment” and “the competent authority (SEDEMA) shall carry out a public consultation” (Art. 47 and 50).
It will only be after the consultation and the “technical recognitions” done by the personnel of the Secretariat for the Environment that the SEDEMA itself will issue a resolution authoring or not the works (Art.53).
None of the above stipulated requirements occurred. To the contrary: “Derived from an exhaustive research of the documents worked out in the archives of the Secretariat of the Environment, this allowed me to inform you that no records related to environmental impact have been found”, responded SEDEMA to the request No. 112000017415 presented by Contralínea.
Neither do they possess any related documents in the Municipal Government (Delegación) of Itzacalco nor in the Administrative Office (Oficialia Mayor), nor of course in the Sport Institute led by De la Vega (folio 0408000011815, 0114000016315, 031000003515). Still when supporters of the Sport Complex and ecology activists rallied against the Stadium before the Seat of the Government of the Federal District, dozens of police corps came to greet them.
“This is an atrocity. This reveals how far the Government of the Federal District despises the Environmental Impact Assessment”, claims in an interview with Contralínea Miguel Valencia, member of the Eco-Communities (Ecocomunidades), the Ecologist Autonomous Network of the Basin of Mexico (Red Ecologista Autónoma de la Cuenca de México). “To construct without performing the Environmental Impact Assessment is against the law. This is illegal”, adds Dr. Luis Zambrano.
“In legal terms they couldn’t do it. If trees are logged without an Environmental Impact Assessment the law is being violated. Everybody has to present an Environmental Impact Assessment when we want to fell a tree, no matter how small it is.”
Also the new stadium of the Diablos would mean logging of 5 thousand trees-estimates the civil eco-activists organizations- still present within the 75 thousand square meters of the Madgalena Mixhuca Complex that will become the new solar inferno.
The law stated above establishes that the highest authority on environmental issues in the city is Miguel Ángel Mancera himself, followed by Tanya Müller, Secretary of the Environment of the Capital. The Politian should have been the first to oblige the banker to comply with the law; instead he is the main promotor of the next seat of the Diablos.
“This is the worst example given by the Secretariat of the Environment and the City Government of double standards: do what I tell you to, but not what I do “, estimates the local MP Miriam Saldaña. “If the SEDEMA shall be the guardian on how the projects on environment protection are being carried out, therefore it can’t be the first one to violate it”, she emphasizes.
“The explanation is the existing impunity. There can’t be a project if there isn’t an environmental impact assessment endorsed by the Secretariat of the Environment”, adds Dr. Zambrano, also a researcher of the Institute of Biology (Instituto de Biología) of the UNAM.
“This is just like the airport: it is a bad idea; but the president wants it. The same here: if Mancera wants the stadium because there is much money hence it speaks for the country we are living in, in which if there is much money you can annihilate something precious…evidently the natural area is such.”
The Magdalena Mixhuca Complex, from environmental value to an asset of Harp and the CIE.
On the 27th of September 2006 the City Government then held by the interim head Alejandro Encinas issued a decree declaring “as an area of environmental value of the Federal District under the category of urban woods the Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca.”
In a document published in the official Gazette of the Federal District the Sport Complex was considered “of having environmental value consisting in the abundance of current and potential vegetation elements, mainly in the arboreal elements along time, as well as the environmental services it provides like the improvement if micro- and macro climate, the control of erosion, the protection of water catchment areas, the reduction of air pollution of noise and polluting particles”.
“In this way 30 animal species could be protected, such as squirrels, lizards, field mice, an endemic regional bird specimen called Cardenalito, furthermore to establish the obligation to preserve the plant species that summed up to 96 different ones, trueno (lingustrum vulgare), jacaranda (jacaranda mimosifolia), Ash tree (fresno) (fraxinus Americana), elm (olmo) (ulmus mexicana), the Mexican white cedar (cedro blanco) (cyoressus lindleyi)”, reminds Miriam Saldaña MP of the XV electoral district, corresponding to the Municipality of Iztacalco.
“Right now the Magdalena Mixhuca area is excluded from any new construction”.
The protection didn’t last 10 years. For the Inter-American Entertainment Corporation (Corporación Interamericana de Entretenimiento, CIE) –associated company of Televisa and major recipient of the returns of the Formula 1 in Mexico-, had urgency in starting the extension of the racetrack for the Grand Prix 2015, meanwhile Harp Helú, 71 years old, looked forward to reach the tranquility of knowing his team could finally have a definitive house.
Having committed the return of Formula 1 to the Hermanos Rodríguez Racetrack and now having assured the Diablos an exclusive area for their stadium, the 9th of June 2014 the government of Mancera left void the decree that protected the sport complex.
Some months earlier the 26th of February the real-estate heritage Committee (Comité del Patrimonio Inmobiliario) of the Federal District had ruled out the “assignment for the use, utilization and operation” of the Magdalena Mixhuca Complex in the benefit of the Sport Institute of the Federal District.
“Derived from a technical assessment performed by the Secretariat of the Environment they warn that since its creation the Sport City “Magdalena Mixihuca” (sic), was inaugurated as an area for practicing sports in the eastern sector of Mexico City” justified the Government of the Federal District to withdraw its ecological protection. Noting was said about the fact that the space was made for amateur sports, not professional.
“In this way the 2006 decree was left void, and thus the modernization plan was created, that is the way it is called for the case of the Sport City Complex. Currently with the new orientation of the City Government, this enables the possibility of reducing the scarce green areas, when these should be taken profit of and preserved when they account with sufficient tree coverage, everyday there are lesser and lesser”, points out the PM of the Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo). Those who supported the suppression of the formerly considered urban wood were Miguel Ángel Mancera himself; the Secretary of the Interior Héctor Serrano Cortés and the Secretary of the Environment Tanya Müller García.
“The truth about things is that the Mexican public servants show an absolute disdain for the issue of the Environment”, whips Miguel Valencia, activist of the Eco-Communities. “Of course they don’t say it openly; they pretend to be doing something about it, but that is the reason they put people like Tanya Müller or Martha Delgado (Secretary of the Environment during the term of Marcelo Ebrard) which serve as a façade. Tanya Müller really doesn’t care about the issue of the environment. She has ordered to log half inconsiderately. She is a totally insensitive woman with regards to ecological matters”
After the festivities, flashes and hugs due to the announcement of the arrival of Formula 1 and the end of the pilgrimage of the Diablos looking for their home, the logging started…at dawn.
“The end of the year was a barbarity! They profited from the dawn to perform the major logging. Specifically the end-beginning of the year when everybody is sleeping”, remembers Valencia. Still some hundred trees located between the end of the main straight of the circuit, the former curve of Moises Solana and the second straight are waiting for their turn.
“The Secretary of the Environment could scale back (the project) arguing the formality of the Environmental Impact Assessment shall be done. Instead the permits for logging the trees are signed by the Secretary. She authorizes it herself.
“Ms. Müller is famous for 8 years; she is called the fastest saw in the west. This lady orders to log trees before the slightest provocation. Never has she learned to plant trees, though despite felling everything, but the government is incapable of doing reforestation. The one being done is due to neighbors who make things little by little”.
For her part the MP Miriam Saldaña points out the seriousness of the case: This is a project which worries me, as we are reducing the green areas of urban soil, which for the Municipality of Iztacalco constitutes a ground of environmental value. The problem being that the demographic growth in that area has been quite unorganized; that much that the district (colonia) Agrícola Oriental is the most populated on the whole American continent”.
Among the arguments advanced by Mancera and his subordinates in order to benefit Harp Helú and the CIE being that the football courts provoked a fragmentation of the green areas.
“Evidently all green areas have an ecological value. All of them have it. The argument whether it is already disrupted and therefore doesn’t matter…no, it does. If it is already disrupted but not urbanized it is still worth something, a lot indeed”, considers the doctor in basic Ecology Luis Zambrano.
“These areas with allegedly few tree coverage but grass still absorb water. The tree even isolated absorbs water. To preserve these small pieces of land is not only essential to preserve specimen, even beyond it remains an important place for the quality of life”.
The executive secretary of the Reserve of the UNAM sets as an example the case of New York City, where in vacant lots specimen have been found that were considered extinct”, and that of the clover between Insurgentes Av. And Periferico (urban beltway), in the very same Mexico City, “where also some specimen of orchids considered no longer available in the Pedregral District. “I would be best if these spaces weren’t disrupted, but even as such they provide much more tab people believe.”
Space assignment without any written document
The Government of the Federal District committed to giving the use of public spaces to Harp without aby written document. There is absolutely nothing, assure the Administrative Office, the Municipality of Iztacalco, the government leadership nor the Sports Institute (folio 0114000016315, 048000011615, 0100000010415, 0315000003415).
About the construction of the stadium “there is only (a) graphical proposal” answered the commissioned of the Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca, the professor Pedro Martínez Balderas, by the request No. 013500002815 presented by Contralínea. Thus without any other resource, the local administration endorsed the initiative of the multimillionaire businessman.
Miguel Ángel Mancera stated that they set to start of the construction woks for March 2015, but not even his own administration knows under which terms the lot will be made available in the benefit of Harp and associates.
-What documents have been signed with the Diablos in order to authorize the construction of the stadium on public space?-Horacio de la Vega, Director of the Sports Institute of the Federal Government, entity in charge of administering the Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca, is asked.
-Well basically…let’s say…there are several issues which are under way in this process in other dependencies of the government.
-But what documents did the INDEPORTE sign with the Diablos?
-Pts…there are basically documents of…of, well of the property of the real estate…We are, as an Institute the owners and those who can have the exploitation rights. Therefore the warranties that we can provide here are these. Thereupon no documents have been signed in this respect (sic). This is despite not having a contract as such until (the current situation) now specifically related with the baseball stadium.
-Then there is a tacit permit but without a signed contract?
-That is right. This will be defined further on, when we will decide the legal status under which this project will be run.
For the public servant this represents no issue. Moreover he says the land will not be released, nor sold nor given in concession to the baseball team. He assures that the grounds as the stadium to be built there will be property of the Federal District also that it won’t be of exclusive for the professional baseball team.
Horacio de la Vega insists that “Sir Alfredo Harp Helú”- how he calls the businessman every time he mentions hum during the interview- will build, exploit and will make of the new stadium the “definite seat of the Diablos”…but not as their property.
“We will not give away the lot nor will we make a concession. It will remain a real estate property of Mexico City. The stadium will be part of the real estate heritage of Mexico City. It will be a stadium of the government,” he says despite that there isn’t anything signed with the owner of the scarlet squad as such.
Privatization, against the popular sport.
The Sport City Magdalena Mixhuca was born with the objective of providing an area for the sports development of the Mexican working class. One if its main promotors were the comedian of the midst of the XX century Jesús Martínez, alias Palillo; this tent promotor who went to jail nine times for presenting plays with satirical-political content like “Agarren a López por pillo” (where the president’s name is misspelled on purpose), “La corrupción SA” (the Corruption Ltd.), or “El maleficio del PRI” (the Curse is the PRI).
Over 200 hectares would be destined to install football, basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, Basque pelota, baseball, children games, athletic tracks, ice-skating rinks, a velodrome, swimming pools…for those unable to pay the private clubs of that time.
In 1956 the ejidos (communal lands) of the area were expropriated in order to construct the sport installations. Originally the peasants were the affected ones in the name of the working class; today the beneficiaries will be the multimillionaires.
“We reject the construction of the stadium and we deplore that a sport complex that had approximately 260 hectares would be reduced to 80 hectares, which means that many have been stolen from the original project to erect buildings that don’t match the purpose nor make sense of the Magdalena Mixhuca Complex, that was founded for popular sports essentially”, expresses Miguel Valencia, an activist that was present in 1996 against a similar attempt by the Cruz Azul football team.
“We were all along Elías García and the Eco-Activists (organizations) when the Cruz Azul Stadium was attempted to be built there, in the Magdalena Mixhuca area, i.e. since 20 years there have been attempts to build a stadium there and there was a strong resistance, rallies similar to those happening today and it was achieved that the stadium wasn’t built.
The Regent (formerly the Head of Government of the Federal District) was Oscar Espinoza Villareal. The country was still troubled by the Zapatista Movement and the killings of Luis Donaldo Colosio and José Francisco Ruiz Masieu. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was emerging to be the first head of government of Mexico City.
“Before the weakness of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) at the time, they gave in not to build”, remembers the environmental activist.
Today the context is different: the PRI is back at Los Pinos (the presidential residence and the head of government Miguel Ángel Mancera has had no problem in supporting the neo-liberal policies of the regime.
Right now we have a government of Mexico City totally submitted to the businessmen”, laments the member of the Eco-Communities, the Ecologist Autonomous Network of the basin of Mexico. “Literally Mancera is hijacked by big businessmen Mancera is man of little sensitivity towards the ecological issue, he really doesn’t understand anything and he is very much committed to the economic and touristic matters.
Mancera as Harp have underlined that the Diablos will have their definite seat within the Sport City.
The businessman didn’t have to move his team to a plot in the outskirts of the capital city, or to acquire the 7 and a half hectares in a costly area connected in several forms like the Magdalena Mixhuca area, the Pingos will play as locals there, the spaces of the Stadium will be commercialized, same as the rights of the games and of course the entries sold by the team. Still the director of INDEPORTE denies any privatization.
“Look: an investment such as the one of Sir Alfredo Harp Helú is not being seen as a business strategy. It is a strategy that I would call as philanthropic by the same Sir Alfredo Harp Helú”, says in a convinced tone Horacio de la Vega.
-What is the public benefit in constructing a stadium for a private team?-he is asked.
-To start the fact of having a stadium in which we would never invest even remotely such an amount. The area has sportive vocation. It is related with the recovery of spaces it is an issue of investment of a project which meets many conditions that we as INDEPORTE and the governing body for sports are promoting in the capital.
As for the MP Miriam Saldaña, the construction of the new Stadium of the Diablos Rojos is openly a privatization (process) of public space”, which undermines the general interest.”
Not only are we living an economic crisis, but also we are in an economic crisis, but also we are coercing, limiting our Citizen, whom the government should provide with recreation for our children to grow up healthier…”
For his part the public servant insists that the use will not be exclusive for the Diablos and that the Government of the Federal District will be the owner of the stadium.
“This is privatization even it is an asset of the city”, insists the MP. “The concept of heritage means that it is accessible for everyone, that there is public access. Therefore in the moment that we privatize, when the private agent collects we are undermining the concept of heritage.
“The Government of the Federal District is taking unilateral decisions. This is very serious. How is it possible that in Iztacalco there is the Magdalena Mixhuca (area) and there are no parks, no gardens, and the Sport City is being privatized day by day a little more.”
The Magdalena Mixhuca Area has been coveted for many years by the sport businessmen, “and what better than giving away public space to them” exclaims Valencia.
“That is the difference of use. The popular football is played on a daily basis in the Magdalena Mixhuca complex; on the other hand the racetrack and stadia are empty for days, or months. What sense (is there) to have installations that are only used when there is a game or season? Instead the popular sports are killed every day.
“There is a contradiction between professional and popular sport, i.e. the professional sport is absolutely the enemy of popular sport; it expels it, finishes it, cancels it, and the professional sport is corruption by excellence.”
Ironically the project promoted by Palillo who would be vilified by Emilio Azcárraga, and would define the bourgeoisie as “those who earning 1 peso, save it in the bank or change it to dollars and sent it overseas”, has shifted into the now associated company of Televisa called CIE, operating the space to organize one of the most costly sport events most distanced of the majority of the population. A banker and also a beneficiary of the Banking Fund for the Protection of Savings (Fondo Bancario de Protección al Ahorro, FOBAPROA) and the selling of Banamex to the transnational Citigroup, Harp Helú will build a stadium for his professional baseball team.
Contralinea spoke to Vania Ravelo, media manager of the Diablos Rojos. Before the permanent denial of Harp Helú to grant an interview, the Chargé of Press said that Jorge Alum Kahwagi, corporate president and general manager of the team, is in charge of answering everything related with the new stadium, and that he would attend the request up to the moment of edition no response has been received yet.
Similarly the Secretary of the Environment Tanya Müller and the Solicitor for environmental Protection Leticia Mejía Hernández refused to answer.
Mauricio Romero, @mauricio_contra
Contralínea 431 / 05 – 11 de Aprill 2015