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Holy Week Politics: Convention Center and Tianguis Turístico

By: David Real | Real Acapulco News - 21 April, 2011

(Acapulco, 21 April) Holidays are usually “slow news” periods, as both the makers and the reporters of news go on vacation for a while. But this year in Acapulco, two controversies seem unwilling to subside, even as the port city fills with Easter visitors and occupancy rates head towards 80% for the last few days.

The International Convention Center

The first is the surprising revelation that the Mexican Navy, and not the State of Guerrero, has control over what will happen to Acapulco’s International Convention Center. Last week it was revealed that last year the federal government acquired the property from the Bank of Mexico and had given it to the Navy. For its part, the Navy has said, in an official communiqué, that it would establish a command and control center there, to aid in the struggle against narcoterrorism and organized crime, forces that have threatened to make Mexico a Somalia-style “failed state.” Drug corruption has so infiltrated law enforcement agencies and political institutions that only the military can be trusted to combat the cancer.

At the same time, the previous governor had disclosed that he had approved a 30-year concession of the property to Grupo CAABSA, a private sector consortium that owns “Expo Bancomer,” with the idea of renovating and revivifying the property for conventions, tourism events and visitor shopping and services. Evidently, the concession was not the governor’s to give.

Quite understandably, locals have shrilly protested the placement of a military bunker in the middle of Acapulco’s Golden Zone. They fear that it would make Costa Azul a battle ground and chase away whatever intrepid tourism remained. Until now, the drug violence has been confined to outlying areas, far from the beaches and resorts. But that is likely to change with the establishment of a Navy command and control facility just a few hundred yards from the beaches and the bay.

This week, the Guerrero Secretary of Tourism, Graciela Báez Ricárdez, said that the two conflicting uses could be harmonized. They Navy would use only a small part of the property for a research facility to warn of impending natural disasters, like earthquakes and tidal waves. The remainder would be available for tourists and tourism development. Today it was reported that Governor Aguirre has tentatively confirmed his tourism secretary’s idea, but conceded that conflicting claims on the property, between the Navy and the private sector, would inevitably have to be resolved in court.

Meanwhile, the 34-acre property lies fallow.

The Tianguis Turístico

The second cause celèbre disputed between Acapulco and the federal government is the decision by federal Tourism Secretary Gloria Guevara to take Acapulco’s 36-year tradition of hosting Mexico’s main tourist fair and convention away. This is the “Tianguis Turístico.” When asked yesterday if the governor had anything further to say about it, he said, “We are not going to put the brakes on the promotion of new events for the port. With respect to the Tianguis, we will achieve much more than whatever the outcome of this matter turns out to be. And we have made our position very clear: we are going to fight, in the courts if need be, to be sure that they respect the name ‘Tianguis Turístico,’ which is our intellectual property, not theirs.” (“Tianguis” is a Nahuatl word meaning “open market”.)

Acapulco’s mayor, Manuel Añorve Baños, is more acerbic still. Yesterday he pointed to the large number of tourists that had taken to the sun and sea along the beaches of the bay, and said, “Not even Gloria Guevara can stop the visitors from coming and from showing their loyalty and confidence in Acapulco.” Earlier, he had called her “Acapulco’s Public Enemy Number One.” He presided over the awards ceremony at Playa Tamarindos, sponsored by the city’s Family Services Division, for intricate and elaborate sand sculptures, an Acapulco tradition during each holiday period. He said, “Acapulco is not only sun, beach and fun; obviously we also have art and culture, and if we manage to take advantage of our natural beauty, as you can see today with the teachers from the Family Services Division, I have no doubt that people will take away a new and positive impression of this beautiful city.”