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Police kick out street vendors in Mexico City

More than 1,000 police officers in riot gear blocked street vendors in Mexico City from setting up stands Friday, clearing the city’s clogged historic center for the first time in more than a decade.
The removal of vendors selling knockoff purses and pirated DVDs from 87 downtown streets was peaceful.
Leftist Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has promised to take back public spaces and improve the quality of life in the city of 8.5 million, like many mayors before him.
According to the BBC, the vendors have been involved in a long-standing dispute with successive local administrations about the right to trade in the city.
Vendors warn they will be back when the holiday shopping season begins in November.
While the city will grant vendors a brief break at Christmas, allowing them to return to sell to holiday shoppers, they will be asked to leave after the New Year and relocate to government-subsidized properties nearby.
Many vendors, represented by large and sometimes violent unions, say they won’t go. They claim the designated properties offered by the city will fail to attract customers.
The Mexico City Chamber of Commerce estimates there are 35,000 vendors in the downtown area alone.
Jose Angel Avila, Mexico City’s government secretary, said about 15,000 street vendors were removed from the heart of downtown Friday. It was unsure if the city would clear out street markets in the poor neighborhoods surrounding downtown.
Many vendors chose to set up their stalls on streets on the edge of the no-vendor zone, which was briefly cleared of markets stalls once before in the 1990s, reports Reuters.
Street vending is a tradition dating back to pre-Hispanic times in Mexico.
According to Reuters: “Millions of Mexicans are forced to sell cheap goods or food on the streets partly because there are not enough traditional office or factory jobs. And many salesmen prefer the tax-free profits they earn in their stalls.?
The New York Times spoke with Elena Ramirez, 79, who was selling sweet bread for 25 cents a piece and said she didn’t plan to stop selling her merchandise outside the metro exit.
“The politicians have their salaries, but if I don’t sell, I don’t eat,? Ramirez said.

The Associated Press:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Mexico-Street-Vendors.html

BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7042768.stm

Reuters:
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=worldNews&storyid=2007-10-12T203700Z_01_N12467938_RTRUKOC_0_US-MEXICO-VENDORS.xml