The News
Tuesday 21 of May 2024

Quake News, True, Human and Fake

A rescue underway in a downed buidling in Mexico City,photo: Cuartoscuro/Mario Jaso
A rescue underway in a downed buidling in Mexico City,photo: Cuartoscuro/Mario Jaso
Conflicts between donors and the federal government are arising not just in Morelos but in other states where volunteers are sending their good will gatherings

The amount of incidents and little anecdotes that have piled up since the first earthquake hit Oaxaca and Chiapas and the second Mexico City, State of Mexico and Morelos on Sept. 7 and 19 is enormous.

Yet the most salient is the behavior of young Mexicans showing hardcore solidarity with those affected and their willingness to help without hesitation or time limit.

But let’s start telling from what some observers have considered “the worst behavior” during a natural catastrophe and this was a case in which President Enrique Peña Nieto had as in the eyes of throngs of critics he should have stayed put in Mexico City and take an immediate leadership control over delivering both manpower and needed foods to the those affected.

Instead, says the criticism by Channel 13 columnist Héctor Moctezuma that Peña Nieto opted for going to as many places as possible from the first day to shoot selfies with the victims and try to make over his mangled personal popularity particularly now that is nearing the lame duck state in the presidency.

This produced great disarray in the way the Federal government managed proceedings to the point that there’s great squabbling going on right now between federal, state and municipal authorities given the rampant disorganization to deliver goods, services and medical aid to those in need.

Of course nobody’s perfect but would the President have looked better had he stayed put in a central command place? One thing that must be commented is that unlike in the 1985 tremor – by far worse than the recent ones – former President Miguel de la Madrid went into hiding with little or no response from the Federal government. Peña Nieto may be criticized but he showed up in even in distant hamlets and places no president had been before. But as Peña Nieto has put it before, he doesn’t have “a chile that suits all” meaning he can’t please everyone but reality is that whatever he does he’s wrong.

The disarray in delivering foodstuffs is perhaps most palpable in Curenavaca where local bishop Ramón Castro Castro denounced that trucks gathered and loaded by the Catholic church were being hijacked on order of State Gov. Graco Ramírez and being repacked by the state run benefit organization Integral Defense of the Family (popularly known as DIF) and not reaching the destinations they were originally for. This complaint has been repeated by smaller donors who planned to take the foodstuffs to far away communities particularly those badly mangled by the tremor, Jojutla and Miacatlán, but again, the goods were seized by state police and taken to DIF.

How much truth is in this I have no way of knowing other than by reports but it also happens to be true that Gov. Graco Ramírez and Bishop Castro Castro have an ongoing rift that now lasts several months and this has more to do with politics than benefitting people.

The point being is that conflicts between donors and the federal government are arising not just in Morelos but in other states where volunteers are sending their good will gatherings.

And while on politics, a highly noisy discussion as to relocating the 25 billion pesos ($1,4 billion) that will be used by the National Electoral Institute (INE) to organize and hold next year’s elections. The original request came from a woman named Begoña Hernáiz who posted a letter requesting the change of use of electoral funds through .

By Sunday night over 1,365,000 signatures had been gathered and the call was that with 135,000 more the letter could be sent to all interested parties. It took only four days to get this type of response which gives you an idea of the influential power social media is acquiring in Mexico.

The reaction from political parties was diverse. Immediately Morena party leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he was willing to donate 20 percent of the party’s electoral funds for southeastern use.

Immediately President Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) upstaged López Obrador offering 25 percent and then Dante Delgado’s Citizens’ Movement said they would donate 100 percent in what all pundits see as “a tournament of demagogues.”

Even if Begoña Hernáiz has good intentions there is a problem. This is not going to happen as Congress has awarded the INE those funds to be used exclusively to pay for the costs of the elections.

Other parties such as National Action (PAN) and Democratic Revolution (PRD) have joined the charade but the real problem is that to be able to do it the entire political parties system would have to be revised and there might not be an agreement in this.

Those who signed the Begoña Hernáiz proposal will have to look for a different option but this serves only to show you that there is a great discontent with the way political parties use the monies allotted to them.

Two more anecdotes are a true and a fake one. The true one is that at Condesa neighborhood a building plummeted and all relatives and neighbors realized that an 86 year old lady was buried under the rubble.

Columnist and playwright Sabina Berman tells the saga of the rescue as immediately an army of volunteers was put together. A niece of the lady under the rubble shouted:

“Aunt Paulita we are here to pull you out; we won’t leave until we do.”

“I’m not going anywhere” Berman quotes Aunt Paulita as answering, “I’ll wait for you right here.”

She was saved after a three-block long line of volunteers passed buckets full of debris to dump far from the wrecked building.

The other story has everything to do with the Enrique Rébsamen School on Tlalpan neighborhood where the quake hit at 1:15 pm a moment in which the middle school students were still in the building. Kindergarten and elementary schools were over for the day when disaster struck.

As the hours went by to remove at least 25 corpses – 21 students and four adults – television station planted the rumor that a young student named Frida Sofía was about to be rescued. Allegedly the entire Televisa soap operas production unites had moved near the school grounds and backed by a Navy Admiral who was reading the latest advances on the dig kept passing on information.

After several hours the announcers of the programs built up a large following (ratings, ratings) given the expectations that Frida Sofía was still alive. By midafternoon Wednesday Frida Sofía was already a popular character and everyone wanted to see her safe. The lady reporter in charge of the hoax even spoke in low soft voice as describing a golfer about to make a master putt.

But the whole story collapsed – just like the school –as it was found out that Televisa had been feeding fake information to the Mexican Navy officer in charge of informing the public and then the Mexican Navy, the Marina, called a separate press conference to apologize to everyone and show deep embarrassment for the error incurred for having falling prey to the lies of a television consortium.

Well, this is neither the beginning nor the end of the earthquake stories, political, human and fake news, but that’s all for today, folks.