The Government of Cuitláhuac García has opened this Thursday the doors of the Veracruz Aquarium that he himself closed nine days ago. In an event that seemed above all a political act, secretaries and political officials from Morena have once again welcomed one of the main marine conservation centers in Mexico. The reopening still occurs in the midst of controversy over its closure and change of administration. This week, the Executive published a decree that allowed the extinction of the trust that had been in charge of managing the aquarium for 30 years to make it pass into state hands. The patronage that directed it and environmental organizations have been protesting ever since what they define as “a political movement” dangerous for the species.
First thing in the morning and accompanied by a group of primary school children, the Environment Attorney, Sergio Rodríguez, has cut the ribbon that gives entrance to the aquarium of the Port of Veracruz. As if it were the inauguration of a new building, the Government of Veracruz has boasted of the reopening of the main tourist attraction of the State. After the act the first tourists have entered as if nothing had happened. But in these nine days, the political debate has revolved around their fish tanks.
The aquarium was founded in 1992 with the support of the Government of Veracruz, which has always remained the owner. It was decided to create a trust and a civil association that would be in charge of the administration of the center. Very soon it became a successful project: with its income it was able to pay the high maintenance costs and still had a profit margin of about 20 million pesos (one million dollars). Over the years it grew in number of visits and meters: before the pandemic it reached a million visitors per year, and currently has more than 7,500 square meters, in which it houses some 5,000 species and numerous specimens of sharks, penguins or dolphins. In addition, the aquarium became a reference center for the breeding and management of manatees and jellyfish. It also served as a rescue and control center for the so-called red tide.
This conservation activity has been called into question by the current governor. In the celebration of a New Year’s Eve party in 2019 and the death of a manatee -which is an endangered species and therefore protected-, García found the arguments to close the enclosure on May 11. It was necessary to investigate what happened, said the president. However, without prior inspection or audit, the decree was published on Tuesday that stripped the trust of the administration of the site.
The decision was very controversial within the board of trustees that ran it —made up of 10 businessmen, among whom are some of the magnates of the region, such as the Pazos family—, but also within the environmental organizations that saw the care of the species in danger. . “We call on the state government so that the Veracruz Aquarium is not used as economic or political loot for anyone. We request that animal welfare and wildlife conservation continue to be priorities,” wrote the Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums of Mexico in a statement, which described the aquarium as an “exemplary institution.”
The change of managers entails some technical doubts: the permits and authorizations for the operation of the aquarium are in the name of the now stripped civil association, the Environment Attorney’s Office did not have among its functions the management of an establishment such as the aquarium, or the economic item destined to process the new permits while the establishment was closed. The Executive has not responded to repeated questions from this newspaper on these issues.
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