Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Federal program dismisses 17,000 ‘tree-planters’ for collecting pay without working

The national tree-planting program that was supposed to create 200,000 jobs this year has not only fallen well short of that goal but has been scammed by 17,000 supposed tree-planters.

The Secretariat of Welfare said it dismissed 17,000 beneficiaries of the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) program for collecting their pay without working.

The number of hectares planted is also well under the target of the reforestation program, which was presented by President López Obrador in February.

The president told reporters at a meeting in Teapa, Tabasco, on Friday that 150,000 hectares of trees had been planted, benefiting 60,000 rural farmers.

The program was intended to plant 570,000 hectares in eight states this year.

As remuneration for working just six days a month planting trees, workers are paid 4,500 pesos (US $236) in cash and another 500 pesos that goes into a savings fund. The budget for this year was 24 million pesos (US $1.2 million).

Before yesterday’s meeting, Welfare Secretary María Luisa Albores González admitted there was a shortfall of 150 million trees. In Tabasco, production was as low as 30% of the established goals.

“There is a lack of plants that is due in the first place to the fact that there was previously no demand for plants like those promoted by this reforestation program, and also to the ravages of droughts and prolonged low water levels . . .” she said.

Welfare undersecretary Javier May Rodríguez said the 17,000 workers dismissed from the program believed that the benefits they were receiving were “as before,” when they were not required to do the work in order to receive payment.

López Obrador also referred to practices from the past, pointing the finger at previous administrations for leaving things in a state that made things difficult for the program. He repeated a favorite analogy, describing the government they left as a “lazy, rheumatic, cunning elephant.”

In Tabasco alone 1,500 workers were sanctioned for not planting trees, initially with the withholding of payments and later with their dismissal, after visits to inspect their progress revealed they had not been working.

Albores said eight million trees were planted in the state, highlighting that over four million were planted in mountainous areas alone.

She said that next year the project should make up for what was not planted this year, for which she signed an agreement with the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) for the donation of 80 million trees.

Commercial nurseries are expected to provide 30 million primarily fruit-bearing trees and community nurseries should supply another  40 million to 50 million.

Source: El Financiero (sp)

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