A Year After Deadly Mexico Quake, Corruption, Negligence And Forgotten Victims Remain A massive earthquake in Mexico killed hundreds and displaced thousands a year ago today. A new report says corruption is behind much of the destruction.
NPR logo

A Year After Deadly Mexico Quake, Corruption, Negligence And Forgotten Victims Remain

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/649471192/649626091" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Year After Deadly Mexico Quake, Corruption, Negligence And Forgotten Victims Remain

A Year After Deadly Mexico Quake, Corruption, Negligence And Forgotten Victims Remain

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/649471192/649626091" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A year ago today, the deadliest earthquake in decades struck Mexico. It toppled dozens of buildings in the capital and surrounding states. Hundreds of people were killed in collapses; thousands were left homeless. Investigators say corruption and negligence contributed to the destruction. As James Fredrick reports from Mexico City, victims are still suffering.

GUADALUPE PADILLA MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

JAMES FREDRICK, BYLINE: Before and after the earthquake, one thing has remained the same for 60-year-old Guadalupe Padilla Mendoza - her pack of rescue dogs. Last year's quake flattened the building next to Guadalupe's and forced her to leave her damaged apartment. A year later, she lives with her 10 dogs in a collection of tents and tarps in the park next to the building she called home.

MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: "It's not easy living here," she says. "We're exposed to the elements. It's raining a lot nowadays, and my place floods." A year ago, nine residents of the Tlalpan housing complex lost their lives when one unit collapsed. All of the 1,500 people from this former public housing project lost their homes. The government says it has allocated the money to rebuild, but repairs began just a month ago. Living on the street is especially bitter for Guadalupe, who spent her entire career as a public servant and now feels abandoned.

MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: "The government hasn't given me answers," she says, "even though I'm here in the streets literally fighting off rats."

MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: So why were these buildings devastated when others seemed untouched? Laura Sanchez Ley is an investigative journalist at the NGO Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity and was part of a team that investigated 28 collapsed buildings in Mexico City. The report's quick explanation for the destruction...

LAURA SANCHEZ LEY: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: "Corruption, negligence and impunity," she says. Here at the Tlalpan housing complex, the buildings fell into disrepair after the government began selling apartments off in the 1980s. In the case of 1C, the unit that collapsed...

LEY: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: Sanchez says they could only find evidence of a 197,000 pesos - just over $10,000 - in maintenance to the building over 30 years. Maintenance that had previously been the government's responsibility had fallen to the wayside. At other buildings, Sanchez says they found troubling trends.

LEY: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: "Mexico's construction regulations are supposedly the best in the world," she says, "but we saw that when construction actually happens, the regulations are ignored by authorities and developers. Concerned citizens were also ignored."

LEY: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: She says, "in the majority of cases, we found that residents had discovered and reported something wrong in their building, but authorities refused to act." To add to that, no one has been held legally responsible so far for the death and destruction. And the billions of dollars destined for victims and rebuilding has trickled out slowly says Manuel Guadarrama, a public finance researcher at the think tank IMCO.

MANUEL GUADARRAMA: There is a significant delay in getting access to these resources, and there are a lot of communities that are still waiting for the help of the government.

FREDRICK: Guadalupe is one of them and says she won't leave her tent until she feels she's been made whole.

MENDOZA: (Speaking Spanish).

FREDRICK: She says, "I own that apartment. It's the only thing I own. It's the only thing I could leave to my grandchildren. I'll defend it, whatever the cost." For NPR News, I'm James Fredrick in Mexico City.

Copyright © 2018 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.