Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum are both deeply embroiled in Monday’s Metro system train crash that claimed the lives of 25 people in the capital’s southeast.
They are also both seen as leading contenders to become the ruling Morena party’s candidate in the next presidential election.
Will the crash, caused by the collapse of a beam that supported an elevated section of Line 12 of the Metro, hurt their chances of becoming Mexico’s next president?
The answer, as yet, is unclear — and neither the mayor nor the foreign minister has declared their intention to pursue the presidency — but a poll suggests that voters more readily apportion blame to Ebrard, who built the newest line of Mexico City’s large Metro system while mayor between 2006 and 2012.
A poll of 401 Mexico City residents conducted by the firm GCE found that 22.2% believe that the main responsibility for the tragedy lies with Ebrard. Only 4.5% opted for Sheinbaum who, as the current mayor, is ultimately responsible for the Metro system.
About 8% blamed Metro director Florencia Serranía. Another 6.6% attributed responsibility to the Mexico City government, while 3.3% pointed their fingers at the federal government. About 2% condemned the company in charge of maintenance.
Only the consortium of companies that built the new line incurred more wrath than Ebrard, with 25.7% of respondents saying that it was to blame for the disaster, the deadliest ever for the city’s subway system.
Fernando Belaunzaran, a Mexico City lawmaker with the Democratic Revolution Party — to which both Ebrard and Sheinbaum formerly belonged — put the question as to who is to blame in simple terms.
“If the problem was structural, it hits Marcelo. If the problem was maintenance, it hits Sheinbaum,” he said. “The struggle over succession will be about trying to demarcate the responsibility.”
When asked on Tuesday whether he was concerned that he would be blamed for the crash, Ebrard said that Line 12 of the Metro, also known as the Golden Line, wasn’t “definitively delivered” until July 2013 — more than six months after his term as mayor ended — even though it opened in October 2012. He also said that that he had nothing to hide or fear, although critics accused him of rushing to complete construction of the line while he remained mayor in order to add to his political legacy.
Ramon Pedraza, a 53-year-old who lives near the location of Monday’s accident, criticized Ebrard in an interview with the news agency Reuters, accusing him of cutting corners to complete the project more quickly.
In an apparent attempt to deflect blame, Sheinbaum on Tuesday alluded to problems with Line 12 long before she became mayor, noting that the Golden Line has a “history.”
She also said she was committed to finding out who is to blame for the disaster. Both the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office and its federal counterpart will carry out investigations, as will a private Norwegian company.
The mayor on Wednesday said that it would be “mean” to the victims and their families to talk about the political costs of the tragedy so soon after it occurred.
“It’s up to us to attend to citizens and at this time give priority attention to people who unfortunately have a family member who lost his or her life and [to] people who are hospitalized,” Sheinbaum said.