Two Tabasco residents denounced corruption in the federal government’s tree-planting employment program a day after authorities revealed that it had been scammed by thousands of people.
José Manuel Cruz López, a 56-year-old from the municipality of Macuspana, told the newspaper Reforma at an event attended by President López Obrador in Jalapa, Tabasco, on Saturday that one farming family is fraudulently using the names of its employees to collect 5,000-peso (US $265) monthly payments from the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) program.
Teresa Méndez López, an ex-worker of the agroforestry program, also claimed that there are people “abusing” the Sembrando Vida scheme.
When López Obrador arrived at the Jalapa event, she personally handed him a folder on which the words “Super urgent. Corruption. Forgery of signatures” were written in large letters, Reforma said.
A day earlier, the Secretariat of Welfare said it had dismissed 17,000 beneficiaries of the tree-planting program for collecting their pay without working. Of that number, 1,500 were in Tabasco.
The number of hectares planted with trees is also well under the target of the reforestation program. López Obrador said that 150,000 hectares of trees had been planted this year, a figure that only represents just over a quarter of the target of 570,000 hectares.
In that context, the president and Welfare Secretary María Luisa Albores urged the teams tasked with providing the saplings for the program to increase production.
“It’s the largest reforestation program in the history of our country, it’s the largest reforestation program in the world, we need one billion saplings between 2019 and 2020,” Albores said at an event in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, on Saturday.
“It’s a great challenge, a great challenge for everyone and so we have to start this work. We have things to do, things to work out, the [tree] planters are ahead of us. While we in the government are trying to move quickly, they’re going faster . . .” she said.
For his part, López Obrador called for the officials in charge of the program to manage it effectively in order to avoid criticism from government adversaries.
“We’re going to be very vigilant so that this program is successful. As always our adversaries, the conservatives, are betting that this program will fail . . . That’s the way conservatives are, they want things to stay the same as they have always been but we want changes,” he said.
“Don’t give them the opportunity [to complain],” López Obrador told more than 900 Sembrando workers and officials from nine states – Veracruz, Puebla, Durango, Colima, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Nayarit and Tamaulipas – where the program will start next year.
He highlighted that the tree-planting program is aiming to create 200,000 jobs with an investment of just 13 billion pesos (US $686.3 million), asserting that even if all Ford factories in the United States moved to Mexico, not as many jobs would be created.
“That doesn’t mean that we’re rejecting those from Ford coming, now with the [new North American free trade] agreement, they’re going to come, but we don’t want to bet only on that, we want to rescue the countryside.”