Mexicans protesting proposed Costco face charges of rebellion, sabotage
Sat Aug 24,12:07 AM ET
MEXICO CITY - Officials in the southern Mexico state of Morelos threw the book Friday at 28 protesters who briefly blocked roads around a site where U.S. retailer Costco plans to build a controversial shopping center, charging them with rebellion, sabotage, attack and causing injuries.
The protesters were arraigned and taken to prison after riot police broke up their Wednesday protest, the government news agency Notimex reported.
In an impressive display of security usually reserved for more serious crimes, hundreds of police lined the streets around the prison as the protesters were transferred.
Such serious charges are seldom brought in Mexico, where such street protests are common, and are routinely punished with a few hours in jail, or not at all.
Several protesters were reportedly beaten when riot police broke up the protest in the city of Cuernavaca, 35 miles (55 kms) south of Mexico City.
Residents say the city, a popular tourist destination, already has enough large, boxy outlet stores and too few parks, and they want the city government to preserve the proposed store site as a public park.
The site is on the property of the former Casino de la Selva, or Jungle Casino, a tree-lined private center that once housed landmark architecture from the 1940s and 50s, and a series of mural paintings.
The site was auctioned off to Issaquah, Washington-based Costco after the government foreclosed the property years ago.
The city government said it can't afford to buy the property, and Costco has said it will dedicate part of the site to a museum for the murals and some park-like areas.
The protests came one day after the city government awarded Costco a permit to build the store, and as company employees began clearing the site for construction.
Cuernavaca's sunny climate and bouganvillia-covered walls earned it the nickname "the city of eternal spring," but protesting residents said the city is in danger of becoming "the city of the eternal shopping mall," as uncontrolled development has boosted the population to more than 1 million residents.