A group of some 300 disgruntled hurricane victims forced their way into a meeting presided over by President López Obrador in Puebla on Sunday.
Hurricane Grace victims from Puebla, Tlaxcala, Veracruz and Hidalgo who say they weren’t counted by a government census that identified people affected by the storm passed through four security filters before bursting into an auditorium where López Obrador was providing an update on the delivery of assistance to victims.
Video footage shows rowdy and chaotic scenes inside the auditorium in Huauchinango where some hurricane victims approached the president.
After managing to calm the angry citizens, López Obrador assured them that financial aid and domestic appliances will be distributed directly to victims of Grace, which slammed into the Veracruz coast as a Category 3 hurricane on August 21.
“Everything will be delivered directly, without intermediaries,” he said. “… The Ministry of Defense will deliver [the aid] and we’re working in a coordinated way with the state government of Puebla,” López Obrador said.
The president left the auditorium shortly after it was overrun, leaving Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez and Welfare Minister Javier May to deal with the victims. He was swamped as he made his way out despite being flanked by military personnel.
It’s not the first time that López Obrador’s security has been breached in Huauchinango. A young man stormed the stage while the president was speaking at an event in the city in January 2019.
At an event in Tlaxcala later on Sunday, López Obrador attributed the latest security breach to people’s desire to get up close and personal with him and other government officials.
“The people want to see us now, they want us to listen to them directly, and they want to participate. They no longer want everything to be through the internet or television,” he said.
A day earlier in Veracruz, the president acknowledged there were complaints about the process to assess the damage caused by Grace.
“There is, of course, some dissent, … there are those who say ‘I wasn’t included in the census’ or ‘they didn’t take me into account,’” he said, adding that they must be assisted if they are found to be genuine victims.
“All of us have to act with honesty, no lies,” López Obrador said. He also said that more than 45,000 households have already received 35,000 pesos (US $1,700) each.
Residents of at least 87 communities in Veracruz are among those who say they weren’t visited by the government employees who conducted the census. They include people who live in Huayacocotla, a municipality that borders Hidalgo in the state’s northwest.
“We’re demanding that the servants of the nation [as the census officials are known] be audited because they didn’t do their job well,” said Marina Martínez, a representative of the Zapatista Farmers Union, which represents the Huayacocotla residents.
“There are people who were affected [by the hurricane] but were not included in the census; they [only] registered those they wanted to, … they were selective,” she said, repeating complaints that have been made by victims of other disasters that have occurred during the term of the current government.