Tuesday, June 25, 2024

GPS shows where reporter’s Turkey quake aid went — and didn’t

Mexico City journalist Pamela Cerdeira is in the news this week after she reported that she’d tracked the complete journey of the nonperishable items she donated in February to be sent to Turkey earthquake victims by Mexico’s military. 

What she discovered has led Mexico City’s government to open an investigation into corruption. 

A military passenger terminal is part of the new air force base at Santa Lucía.
The aid was bound for the Santa Lucia air base in México state, though Cerdeira found that the aid was never sent to Turkey, instead ending up for sale in Tacuba and in government offices. (Sedena)

Cerdeira attached Apple AirTags — GPS trackers typically used to keep tabs on valuables or other items — to a package of toilet paper and a bag of rice, items she gave to an earthquake aid collection center set up by the city government in the Zócalo. Following the air tags with software on her computer revealed that her items never reached their destination. 

In fact, they never left the capital.  

The journalist’s two-part video report, “The Groceries that Never Reached Turkey,” published on YouTube on June 6, now has more than 250,000 views between both videos. Cerdeira documented her donated items’ journey on a dedicated Twitter account

While the items should have been destined for a Defense Ministry (Sedena) aircraft hangar at the Santa Lucía air base in México state for transport to Turkey, Cerdeira found instead that her donations traveled to two different government agencies in the city.. 

Mexican rescue worker in Turkey
There was a outpouring of aid from Mexican citizens after the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria earlier this year. Mexico also sent its famous earthquake rescue dogs to help look for victims. (Marcelo Ebrard/Twitter)

The toilet paper arrived at a Ministry of Finance warehouse, where it then shifted to a market in the Tacuba neighborhood of Mexico City. Cerdeira retrieved it from a vendor selling similar items. The vendor claimed he had bought the package from children selling it on the street, but the GPS tracker indicated that it had previously been located in the historic center’s La Merced public market.

The other GPS tracker showed that the bag of rice was taken to offices at the Ministry of Government in mid-February. It later ended up at a Mexico City school’s food bank established by Morena legislator Óscar Gutiérrez. 

Mexico City’s Governance Minister Martí Batres repudiated the findings of Cerdeira’s report, stressing that donations were delivered to Sedena. According to city records, 30 tonnes of nonperishable food and other items were delivered to the Sedena air base. 

“I want to point out that we followed the procedure that we always follow: The call was made, the food and products were collected and delivered to Sedena. Their receipt of said delivery was acknowledged, and we are completely sure that Sedena, always fulfilling its duty, made the corresponding delivery to the victims of the earthquake in Turkey.” 

Despite his stated belief that the donations were handled appropriately, Batres acknowledged that he has opened an investigation with the Comptroller General’s Office. 

Cerdeira said she will continue to investigate.

With reports from El Universal, Marca and Infobae

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