The distribution of aid to victims of the September 7 earthquake is being openly used for political purposes in the worst affected region of the country, according to non-governmental organizations that carried out an observation mission.
Oxfam México, PODER, ProDESC and four other organizations visited communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of Oaxaca between September 11 and 14 to oversee that aid was being distributed according to international humanitarian law standards.
However, during their visit they found evidence of several cases where aid came with clear political strings attached.
A representative from ProDESC said that in Ixhuatán various shelters from where aid was distributed had been set up but each one was under the banner of a political party.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the National Action Party (PAN) all have a presence.
“. . . It was openly partisan. You didn’t have to work it out, the residents themselves told us and we saw that the shelters had signs: The PRI grants . . . or the PRD or the PAN,” Juan Antonio López said.
López also said that in Juchitán and Unión Hidalgo, the town mayors, assisted by local police, stopped people who were carrying provisions for storage in private residences and took possession of the aid so they could later distribute it from shelters they had set up themselves.
There is also evidence that the mayor of Juchitán, Gloria Sánchez López, has continued to hand out provisions directly to local residents despite a federal and state government directive that all aid be distributed via the military.
The decree is designed to prevent its politicization and also came after accusations that local officials were hoarding aid.
In another Isthmus community, the mission observed that provisions were handed out accompanied by a clear political message.
“In San Francisco del Mar, during the distribution of aid, they said that it was direct help from Governor Alejandro Murat and his wife,” López said.
Elections will be held in the state next year but while the governor himself is not up for reelection, other politicians at municipal, state and federal level will be.
“What we saw is that each party is now using the delivery of aid to support their possible pre-candidates and their party, there were people who directly said, ‘this aid is on behalf of a certain person’ who could be a pre-candidate,” López said.
The politicization of aid distribution is not the only problem emanating from the earthquake devastated region.
There are also reports that the amount of aid is insufficient and that people carrying out the census to determine the number of houses damaged by the quake are not qualified to do so.