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A boy stays dry at a home in José Colomo. A boy stays dry at a home in José Colomo.

‘We’re not lying, Mr. President, we’ve lost everything:’ residents describe tragedy in Macuspana

In José Colomo flood victims are desperate for help

Residents of a severely flooded town in the Tabasco municipality where President López Obrador was born and grew up are desperately appealing for help from authorities, claiming that they have been forgotten as they face the worst crisis of their lives.

José Colomo is a small town of just 1,200 residents on the Chilapa River near Ciudad Pemex in the municipality of Macuspana. It has been flooded for the past month but residents say that the situation worsened when water released from the Peñitas dam in Chiapas arrived.

Several residents who spoke with the newspaper Reforma said that none of the aid promised by López Obrador has arrived.

With tears running down her cheeks onto her face mask, Marta Elena Álvarez Muñoz said that her home was completely inundated with water.

“I need help, I don’t have anything. A while ago I went to remove what I could, I was crying from the sadness of seeing my things the way they are – my fridge, washing machine, stove, I’ve lost everything. I can’t go on like this, we’ve been in water for a month. Please [help us] now!” she said.

Ernesto Muñoz Bardín, a local farmer, urged López Obrador not to forget about his fellow tabasqueños, as natives of the Gulf coast state are known, saying he should travel to José Colomo to see for himself what the local residents are enduring.

Like many others affected by flooding, Muñoz’s feet are badly hurt from being constantly submerged in water. Applying creams and ointments to them is pointless, he said, because, “we’re in water the whole time.”

Irasema Hernández García told Reforma that her most valuable possessions were ruined by the floodwaters that inundated her home.

“Photos, paintings, things that I sacrificed a lot to buy were destroyed in a second,” she said.

“And we haven’t received help from anyone. We had to go to the highway to see if they [passing motorists] would take pity on us and throw us something – a snack,” Hernández said.

“We hope that the president, … who is a Tabasco native like us … doesn’t abandon us, because we voted for him and we support him. … He shouldn’t abandon us,” she said.

“We’re going through a terrible crisis where we live, we need help, we’re not lying. We’ve lost everything,” said Mariana Pérez Martínez, another resident. “The president needs to remember us, he should [come and] see that it’s not a lie, that we need help,” she said.

María del Carmen López Arias, who saw six turkeys she was raising for food washed away by floodwaters, also issued a plea for help.

“We want provisions, we haven’t been given anything, they [the authorities] don’t take notice of us. We can’t work, my crops were ruined – my bananas, my limes, we were left with nothing,” she said.

“[If] provisions are not arriving [in José Colomo], where are they sending them?” asked Ana Gabriela Alejandro Hernández, presumably referring to the more than 100 tonnes of food aid that was transported to Tabasco by the military this week.

“The federal government is responsible for this. If it’s sending help then it’s the state [government’s] fault. Or whose fault is it? That’s the question. Why doesn’t the aid arrive here; what do we have to do? We’re desperate.”

Juan Antonio López Hernández, the municipal delegate for José Colomo, has been accused by residents of not doing enough to secure government aid for the town. But he rejects the accusation, showing Reforma several letters and cell phone messages he has sent to state and municipal authorities appealing for help. In one letter dated November 17, López told the authorities that 572 food packages were urgently needed in the town.

López also appeared in a video published by Reforma in which he visits the flooded home of a resident.

“About 70 centimeters [is] the level of water inside the house, [this video is] so that the councilmen, the president of the republic and the governor of the state can see that we’re not lying – [this is the situation in] Ranchería José Colomo,” he said.

We’ve been making requests [for help] and they haven’t been attended to at all.”

Residents of flooded communities in many other parts of Tabasco – about 900,000 people across the state are estimated to have been affected by flooding – also say that they have been abandoned by the authorities.

But at his regular news conference on Friday, López Obrador asserted that the federal government is providing help to flood victims.

“About the floods, all these trashy publications – El Universal, Reforma – are talking about the victims not being attended to. Of course, we’re attending to them. And they will be looked after in all respects, like never before,” he said.

“Those who are not being attended to are those who dedicated themselves to looting and stealing. These newspapers, … because of the change [in government] are no longer prospering on the public budget. That’s what they’re angry about, that’s why they dedicate themselves to attacking us, to committing libel against us every day.”

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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