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Violent Eviction of Squatters in Puerto Marqués

By: Staff | Real Acapulco News - 11 November, 2010

(Puerto Marqués, NA 11 November) Yesterday Puerto Marqués was practically in a state of siege for ten hours or so as 1,200 state police moved in on 25 acres of land occupied by a community of squatters, people who illegally occupy the real property of another. The police were acting in execution of a court order restoring possession of the property to its rightful owner. The squatters had ignored several orders to vacate the land, and instead decided to confront the police.

Unoccupied private land in the region surrounding Acapulco often attracts squatters, called “invaders” locally. Often many families of squatters will set up an entire shanty town, complete with electricity, running water and cable TV. The houses are usually palapas or shacks covered with cardboard, asbestos board or tin. Streets and alleyways emerge among the houses, giving the place a resemblance of legality. But if the owner later comes to reclaim control over the land, the confrontations can be violent. Squatters are often fairly simple people, who either do not understand that they have no legal right to build or they simply ignore the legal aspects.

That was the case yesterday in an area of Puerto Marqués north and west of its town center, off the “Scenic Highway” that connects the community with Acapulco.

The eviction raid started at 9:00 am. Eventually a helicopter appeared overhead for several hours, providing orientation to the police on the ground. The operation was also supported by fire department vehicles and ambulances. The squatters watched as the police destroyed their houses and tossed furniture, appliances and personal belongings into dump trucks. Vehicles were towed away. Clothing, dishes, curtains, toys and TV’s were scattered on the ground all over the place. The police barred the men from returning to their dwellings, for fear that they might have weapons. Women were permitted to return in small groups to gather what they could. Many of the dispossessed men and women were injured in their attempts to prevent the police destruction.

Meanwhile, from Las Brisas to the traffic circle of Puerto Marqués, traffic was backed up and snarled because of the road closings ordered by police to isolate the trouble. For several hours the tourist areas of Diamante and Puerto Marqués were effectively inaccessible to anyone but local inhabitants.

Around 2:00 a group of youths local to the area started attacking the police with stones. Eventually, after efforts to calm the youths failed, the police donned riot shields and helmets and counterattacked the group with their nightsticks, injuring several. The violence spilled over onto the beaches of Puerto Marqués, causing the few tourists who were there to run for their lives.

Uniformed personnel used the market on Puerto Marqués’ main street as a meeting point for briefings on the operation and to organize backup. As a result, a nearby elementary school suspended classes for the day, and by 10:00 am virtually all of the businesses in Puerto Marqués had shut their doors and pulled the curtains.

Violence associated with evictions such as this one derives from the police policy of zero tolerance with interference. According to Jorge Ochoa Jiménez, a local attorney interviewed by the press, a strict eviction procedure is necessary to establish the rule of law, to protect the environment from the garbage and unsanitary living conditions of squatter villages, and to encourage investment in real estate development. The "Rule of Law" is not much honored in the process: Ironically, the main complaint from citizens is that the police and fire personnel rob, for their personal use, the possessions of those being evicted.

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