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Mexicans Turn to Social Media to Call Out Abuse and Irregularities After Earthquake

Photograph by the author. Used with permission.

Following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico on September 19, civilians have been working around the clock to form medical teams, collection centers, rescue groups, and perform reconstruction work. It is an impressive social mobilization effort, reminiscent of Mexico’s reconstruction following the disastrous 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck in 1985. These days, hashtags like #VerificadoS19 (#VerifiedS19) are the latest in a series of new online tools developed to more efficiently channel support to areas in need.

However, in the midst of this impressive display of solidarity throughout Mexico, reports have surfaced of politically-motivated hoarding, rescue protocol violations, attacks on civilians, refusal to publicly release crucial information, a general lack of sensitivity and an absence of response from different levels of the Mexican government.

Voices began chiming in on September 21, under the hashtag #RescatePrimero (#RescueFirst), in protest of the army and navy’s efforts to start debris removal with heavy machinery before the 72-hour wait period recommended by international rescue protocols. This prompted the intervention of the National Human Rights Commission and the filing of legal proceedings to halt building demolition so the search for missing people could continue uninterrupted.

#RescatePrimero [“#RescueFirst”] If the navy or the military have exhausted themselves, there are still many diggers, teams, and people who have the strength and desire to help

We support this statement from the #CNDH [The National Human Rights Commission] of Mexico | Via: @gomanego. #NoALaMaquinariaPesada [“#NoToHeavyMachinery”] pic.twitter.com/WIMW26L4Wi

Judges grant suspension orders to stop demolishing damaged buildings, if it is still possible to locate survivors https://t.co/FW861mKTrQ

New Challenges, Same Problems

A textile factory in Colonia Obrera is another location where irregularities have been reported, from refusals to disclose the identities of female employees or details about their working conditions, to physical and verbal aggression by troops sent from the nation’s capital. Sadly, there are painful similarities shared between current events and the earthquake that hit 32 years ago, when saving factory equipment was prioritized over the recovery of human lives. This is one of several cases that has revealed ongoing evidence of negligence and a relationship of corruption between the real estate industry and the government. Tensions in Colonia Obrera touched off confrontations between the military and civilians.

Were there any deaths at the factory in Obrera? What happened there? They cleaned the premises, but not the doubts https://t.co/UmQc2ftQhE

Women workers, dying in the factories where they work, in conditions we don't know about. It's not the first time. #Chimalpopoca

RT #Urgente [“#Urgent”] #Chimalpopoca 
—>Workers there say there is a basement.
Troops have withdrawn.
There is police fencing and machinery. pic.twitter.com/UXtBgvAjMw

 

Anger and pain flared once more when it was discovered that information about the collapsed buildings on Álvaro Obregón and Gabriel Mancera Avenues in Mexico City was withheld for over six days, even though signs of life were detected as late as September 25. It is presumed that about 40 people may still be trapped. Demands from family members and rescue groups, directed at all levels of government, are increasing while critical time is running short.

Families in #AlvaroObregon286 are desperate, report serious irregularities and lack of information. #Sismo [“#Earthquake”]… https://t.co/YDyo6kA3CG

The lack of information from #alvaroobregon286 is inhumane…

A few days ago they had the gall to ask family members not to have contact with news media and social networks.

Facing grim realities such as these, the online community is reminding others to stay alert, not just in Mexico City, but in other earthquake-affected parts of the country. They urge others not to forget about equally important areas with less media coverage, like Santa Rosa Xochiac, Iztapalapa, Tláhuac, Xochimilco, and camps of indigenous populations in settlements around the Roma and Juarez neighborhoods.

Social media users are urging affected residents, neighbors, and civilians to report irregularities and insist that institutions comply with minimum security and transparency protocols. They are demanding that the public be informed about issues in an honest and time-sensitive manner, that international protocols regarding the use of heavy machinery are being upheld, that there are no undue arrests or obstructions to rescue work, that construction companies are held legally responsible for damaged buildings, that all civil protection regulations for reconstruction be complied with, and that aid can and will arrive to affected areas:

I repeat: there is still a lot of help needed, but we have to ask about the number of women who worked in #Chimalpopoca and under what conditions.

I am from Morelos and no one told me, I saw it for myself, things are really intense and we all head out to help, fearful that they will stop us from helping.

Any collapsed building should NOT be demolished before an expert's report can identify causes and responsibilities. 😡 No to impunity 😡

Now that talks of rebuilding have started, the public wants to closely monitor the use of all resources directed towards reconstruction.

Businessmen from Mexico City demand public transparency in the handling of the reconstruction money.

The moment of truth has come. The time of transitory heroes has passed. What we need now is to keep up the civic spirit. #ReconstrucciónSinCorrupción (Reconstruction without corruption)

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