The chief of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and the governor of Tabasco traded barbs on Tuesday over who is responsible for severe flooding in the gulf coast state.
Manuel Bartlett of the CFE denied that the state-owned company is responsible for the flooding that has plagued parts of Tabasco, including the state capital Villahermosa in recent days.
But Governor Adán Augusto López Hernández accused the CFE of causing some of the flooding by releasing greater quantities of water from the Peñitas dam, which is located on the Grijalva River in Chiapas and used to generate hydro-electric power.
Interviewed outside the National Palace in Mexico City on Tuesday afternoon, Bartlett said that some people are looking to blame others for their own “clumsiness.”
Asked about the Tabasco governor’s remark that he would file a complaint against the CFE for damages caused by the flooding, he responded: “That complaint makes me laugh.”
Bartlett, who had attended a meeting with President López Obrador and other governors to discuss the flooding and ways to prevent it in the future, asserted that the CFE doesn’t manage the water in the Peñitas dam and other dams across the country.
The Committee of Large Dams manages dam water, he said, explaining that the organization is made up of officials from the National Water Commission and university academics.
“Who determines the management of [dam] water up until today is this organization,” he said.
López Hernández responded to Bartlett on Twitter, charging that his remarks were designed to “hide the irresponsibility” of CFE officials.
The Tabasco governor said that Bartlett had confessed that there was a “miscalculation in the operation of the Peñitas dam” and that the error caused flooding in three municipalities – Nacajuca, Jalpa and Cunduacán.
“Now with professional cynicism he says that ‘the complaint makes him laugh.’ He will soon have his opportunity to speak in court. Surely he doesn’t understand but the change in this country is profound; we have confidence in the judicial authorities,” wrote López Hernández, who represents the Morena party founded by President López Obrador.
In a separate tweet, the governor charged that Bartlett “and his bureaucrats” allowed 1,500 cubic meters of water per second to be released from the Peñitas dam, which had been inundated with rain brought by two cold fronts and Tropical Storm Eta.
By increasing the amount of water released from the dam, the CFE “criminally flooded the Tabasco plains,” López Hernández wrote. “Mr. Bartlett, that’s not called clumsiness, it’s called irresponsibility and criminal negligence.”
Prior to his Twitter tirade, the governor said in an interview that the Tabasco government would file a legal complaint against the CFE to seek compensation for damage caused by the flooding. He warned last week that he would hold the state-owned company responsible for any damage caused by an increase in the quantity of water released from the Peñitas dam.
López Hernández said Tuesday that the current priority was to save lives and support people affected by the flooding but asserted that his government would subsequently launch legal action. It is clear that the CFE has mismanaged the dam water, he said.
“It rained less and it flooded more due to the [excessive] release [of water],” the governor said. “There is obviously damage and there is a cause of the damage. Those responsible must make amends.”