Who's Stealing From Mexico's Hurricane Victims?

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An interesting story emerged this morning in Reforma, one of Mexico's leading papers. The article claims that organized crime groups in Guerrero State are stealing aid from victims of hurricane Manuel, a storm that killed 130 people in Mexico back in September, and left at least 20 thousand residents of Guerrero without a home.


Gonzalo Vargas, one of the officials in charge of distributing aid in Guerrero, admitted Wednesday that aid has not been distributed to 122 communities in this southwestern Mexican state.

Vargas did not elaborate on why aid was not distributed.

But Reforma says that it has gathered testimonies from federal sources and state officials who "wanted to stay anonymous" that claim armed criminal organizations are stopping aid workers from taking their cargo to several communities.


There may be some truth to statements published in Reforma's article, especially if you consider that several communities in Guerrero are currently at war with drug cartels that tax local businesses. Dozens of towns in that part of Mexico have actually formed vigilante groups to kick out criminal organizations.

Keeping in mind that there is a war going on, it would not be surprising to see criminal organizations stealing aid in order to enrich themselves, and weaken their opponents.

But what if the people who are blocking aid from reaching victims are actually corrupt politicians?

Sinembargo.com, a Mexican website, gathered several testimonies from Guerrero victims who accused local officials of hoarding aid shipments for their own benefit.


In the town of Metlatonoc [pop. 18,000] for example, residents are accusing the local mayor of hoarding food shipments and re-selling these goods in the local street market.

None of this fits President Obama's optimistic portrayal of Mexico.

Natural disasters leaving thousands of people on the brink, corrupt politicians and criminals who stop aid workers from doing their jobs?


If this stuff is true, it makes this part of Mexico sound a little bit like Somalia where militant groups have blocked UN food aid.

Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.

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