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Jova relief package stalls in Congress

October 28, 2011

A full two weeks since Hurricane Jova ravaged Jalisco’s coastline, desperately needed money is not getting through to victims due to drawn-out political maneuvering and a bungled insurance policy.

While the neighboring state of Colima received emergency resources within two days from the National Fund for Natural Disasters (Fonden), Jalisco’s executive and legislative branches of government have become bogged down in a debate over a 950-million-peso loan.

Not until October 14 did Jalisco Governor Emilio Gonzalez of the National Action Party (PAN) declare a state of emergency in the 13 worst-affected municipalities, with the aim of freeing up resources for reconstruction. Now, two weeks later, Gonzalez is facing criticism for requesting additional funds for 52 of the state’s 127 municipalities.

On Wednesday Enrique de Castro Palomino Aubry, the coordinator of the Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) and president of the State Congress Political Coordination Board, called for the governor to explain the purpose of the loan, why an insurance against natural disasters appears invalid, and why he has requested emergency funds for municipalities that were largely unaffected by the storm.

“While recognizing the needs of many municipalities of Jalisco, we need to know what damage Jova caused in Sayula, Guadalajara, Jocotepec, Tlajomulco, Tapalpa and Tlaquepaque.”

Tlaquepaque Mayor Miguel Castro Reynoso said he did not understand why his municipality required funds and called for the resources to be sent to the coast where they are most needed. Likewise, the mayor of Zapopan, Hector Vielma Ordonez, said one cannot compare the effects of Jova in the city and on the coast, and called on the state government “to stop this discussion and help those in need.”

With the damages now estimated at around 1.3 billion pesos, at least seven mayors from the southern coastal area worst hit by the storm demanded that the State Congress approve funding so that repairs to their battered communities can commence.

The worst affected municipality of Cihuatlan has asked for 700 million pesos to support the restoration of agriculture, tourism and housing. Meanwhile, La Huerta wants 156 million pesos to repair damage to drainage, roads, bridges and houses.

Other locations in need of further aid include Autlan de Navarro, Garcia Barragan, Cuautitlan, Casimiro Castillo and Villa Purification, which have applied for 150, 120, 90 and 50 million pesos, respectively, to deal with the aftermath of the storm.

Roberto Gallardo, the mayor of Cihuatlan, called on lawmakers for help “regardless of their party,” because “we are all human beings and Mexicans.”

This week Jalisco Secretary General Fernando Guzman Perez Pelaez, who is hoping to succeed Gonzalez as state governor, went personally to Congress to in a bod to persuade legislators to quickly approve the 950-million-peso loan.

The lateness and the sheer scale of the PAN’s request for funds has led the opposition parties to question whether the state government intends to use some of the money for electioneering purposes.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) derided Perez’s appearance as a “media event,” while Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) coordinator Raul Vargas said the state government has acted in an “irresponsible” manner.

On top of the ongoing political debate delaying authorization of emergency funds, the storm victims have also been let down by the state government over promises it made regarding insurance money.

In March, State Finance Secretary Leyzaola Ricardo Serrano said Jalisco was “protected” after the government had purchased natural disaster insurance worth 130 million dollars. it now transpires that the state can expect to recover a mere 250 million pesos (about 20 million dollars) from the policy.

This is because the contract only covers damage to infrastructure, such as housing or public buildings and roads, but not damage to plots, agricultural products, livestock, or loss of tourist sites. Payment also depends on the size of the affected area, with the full 130 million dollars only applicable if the entire state were hit by a natural disaster.

Fortunately, small business owners adversely affected by Jova who requested aid from the Jalisco Enterprise Development Fund (FOJAL) will receive funding from October 31. Having installed a module in Autlan de Navarro last Wednesday and then in Cihuatlan on Friday, FOJAL received 50 applications for aid, which consists of 25,000-peso loans.

With the storm having robbed an estimated 500 people of their main source of income, FOJAL expects to pay out in excess of 100 million pesos, twice the figure it first envisaged.

However, last week, representatives of the Jalisco restaurant industry (CANIRAC) indicated that aid for just 500 businesses is inadequate because in the south of the state alone some 3,000 businesses have been affected. Of these, an estimated 1,000 restaurateurs are reporting the worst damage.

In other news, Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport has reported that as of last weekend the Federal Highway 80 from Guadalajara to Barra de Navidad is now fully operational again. Six points on the road have reopened after being closed since October 12 due to landslides, mudslides and floods caused by Jova.

Finally, the Red Cross has been disappointed by the apathetic reaction that has met their appeals for aid in Guadalajara. So far they have only collected ten tons of donations, an amount that would fill just half a trailer.

Tapatios showed a greater interest in supporting earthquake victims in Haiti in 2010, to whom they donated nearly 400 tons, equivalent to over 20 trailers of supplies.

Alhy Nuñez, spokesman for the Red Cross, said in total they have collected about 12,000 items, including vegetables, canned foods, water and sanitary products. One of several collection center can be found on Avenida Independencia, one block from Red Cross headquarters beside the Parque Morelos. It will remain open for all of next week at least.

The Pan American Games Organizing Committee has promised to donate all the furniture from the Athletes Village to Hurricane Jova victims once the Parapan Games have finished on November 20.

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