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Making lemonade…

12 July 2008

There’s no way the “News Divine” tragedy can be undone, and the political ramifications are going to be felt for years (Joel Ortega, the District’s police chief, was a fixture in PRD officialdom, but his career appears to be over.  Marcelo Ebrard — who was police chief under AMLO — was also fired after a police operation gone wrong, but that involved Federal Police, and the heavy handed attempts to “spin” the situation into an anti-AMLO campaign backfired.  However, this disaster involved civilians and the metropolian police departments and Ebrard can expect his opponents to try making political hay out of News Divine should he run from President in 2012).  Still, as with the Loboombo disaster (a nightclub fire in October 2000, that killed 22 mostly young adults and led to major changes in the fire and safety codes, as well as more funding for the fire department), there is a consensus for progressive actions to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

Crackdowns on underage drinking has been relatively popular.  When I was in High School (yes, electric lights had been invented by then, but not the internet) there was “nothing to do” and kids would go drinking (and the police would come by and arrest us) — but it was outdoors (a park conveniently stradding the county line) and local police hadn’t started “responding in force” to all violations.  Besides, the cops were related to half of us, and other than a stern lecture from your parents (or taking the car keys away) not much was going to happen.

While the U.S. is more tolerant of police intervention than it was back then, they are less likely to respond in force to minor incidents like underage drinking parties (I hope).  In Mexico,  where nobody really likes the police to begin with, they’ve always had to use overwhelming numbers — which is what started the whole “New’s Divine” mess.  The kids ran for the exits, which were blocked by the police, and people panicked.

And, in neighborhoods like Nuevo Atzacoalcos, the kids with “nothin’ to do” have nowhere to go… not really. So — maybe this is a solution. A step in the right direction, anyway (11-July-2008 Milenio, my translation):

The News Divine Discoteque will re-open its doors in the next few weeks. Twelve people,nine of them minors, lost their lives in what will reopen as a free facility for youths, sponsored by the Federal District government.

The District government hopes to recover from the damage inflicted on dozens of youths during the the 20 June failed Unipol operation.

Chief of Government Marcelo Ebrard, announced the decision after a Youth Institute (Instituto de la Juventud) survey of teenagers in Nuevo Atzacoalcos, where the disco was located, of what type of youth center they wanted at the site. The survey indicated 24 percent of females, and 21 percent of males wanted a Cultural Center, while 33 percent of females and 38 percent of males nighttime entertainment  activities.

Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the facility will be open from 14:00 to 21:00, offering youths from 12 to 17 music, snacks, soft drinks and flavored waters – but no alcohol. Services are free of charge. Security will be provided by a parent’s committee.

New’s Divine is the first building to be part of a new project. Four young architects are designing a prototype for the facility, which, while maintaining the original structural integrity, includes besides the disco, multiple-use rooms for recreational activities, sports and cultural workshops, are included.

To avoid over-concentration at any one site, twenty more similar facilities are planned.

Instituto de la Juventud Director Javier Hidalgo, confirmed to MILENIO that the Capital government will be organizing “safe nights” in different parts of the capital where alcohol is not sold, overseen by a parent’s security committee.

To construct these “Youth Recreation Centers” the capital government hopes to use seveal abandoned movie theaters, as well as two nightclubs closed by the local government. One of these clubs, near Metro Insurgentes is for the lesbian-gay community.

Underage kids are prohibited from having fun, simply because no private business will sponsor alchohol-free dances. Providing recreation is the important thing, which is something the capital government can do,” Hidalgo said.

As an ex-kid (yeah, it’s been a long time, but I vaguely remember the experience), one suggestion. The parents’ security teams should work the clubs across town from their kids. I’d hate to be the girl who kissed the boy whose mother would tell my mother. And, for lesbian-gay kids either need really cool moms, or some other arrangement is going to be necessary.

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