More evidence that earthquake aid is not reaching the people who really need it has emerged from the southern state of Oaxaca.
A mayor in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region has been found hoarding relief supplies while victims of the powerful September 7 earthquake are left arguing over the limited provisions that are available across the devastated area.
The newspaper Reforma confirmed that donated items including bedspreads, tents, camp beds, tarps and food aid were being stockpiled in Fernando Miguel Contreras’ office in San Miguel Chimalapa.
When the mayor was advised by Reforma that there was photographic and video evidence of his abuse of power, he became both angry and defensive.
“Here we are governed by customs and traditions,” Contreras said.
“You cannot enter just because you want to enter as if you arrived [at your own] home. If I’m going to go into your home, who am I going to ask for permission? The homeowner.”
At least 100 homes collapsed in the small town, located about 50 kilometers northeast of regional hub Juchitán, where widespread damage also occurred.
Angry residents are aware of the mayor’s actions and say that he is also managing both a temporary employment program to rebuild the community and the census of damaged homes so that the biggest beneficiaries are his own close family members.
“Everyone knows that the municipal president is mainly helping his [own] family; his uncle, aunt, siblings and his wife are on the list to build [new homes] but these people don’t appear in the census,” said Gustavo Gutiérrez, a local earthquake victim.
Another victim, Jesusita Sánchez, also said that aid is only being distributed to close family and friends of the mayor.
A federal government directive shortly after the earthquake ordered that only military personnel distribute aid to avoid its politicization but during their infrequent rounds to deliver it in San Miguel Chimalapa, supplies have been limited.
Sánchez also said that the census to assess home damage was carried out at the discretion of municipal employees and some homes were incorrectly deemed to be habitable despite clear evidence that they were not while most new government-funded construction that is set to take place will concentrate on properties owned by relatives of the mayor.
Meanwhile, thousands of people across the Isthmus region continue to sleep exposed to the elements more than a month since the quake struck.
Shortages of tarps, tents and other supplies including food aid have led to disputes and conflicts between increasingly desperate residents, which in at least one case involved quarrels with machetes in hand.
Source: Reforma (sp)