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Mexican government seeks greater funds for storm relief as death toll continues to rise

September 24, 2013

The death toll from the severe tropical storms that ravaged Mexico last week has grown to 128 and looks set to rise further as President Enrique Peña Nieto admitted that the dozens still missing in La Pintada, Guerrero are unlikely to be found alive.

“We are confronting rainfall that has practically been the most extensive in the history of the entire national territory,” Peña Nieto said on Sunday, noting that the 12 billion pesos available through the National Emergency Fund (Fonden) will not be enough to address the extensive damage caused by tropical storms Manuel and Ingrid.

“It is very likely that the resources allocated for this contingency will not be sufficient,” the president added. He explained that he would send a proposal to Congress for the 2014 budget to be amended so that additional funding can be released this year.

Peña Nieto called for the governments of the 24 states affected by the two storms to coordinate with the federal authorities in assessing the extent of the damage done. Sinaloa Governor Mario Lopez Valdez said his state alone would require over two billion pesos of aid after Hurricane Manuel left 175,000 people there homeless, 300 damaged roads and 150 kilometers of broken drainage infrastructure.

The state and federal governments disagreed over which Jalisco municipalities had suffered sufficient damage to declare states of emergency that would entitle them to disaster relief funds. Mexico’s Interior Ministry released a list of list of 21 municipalities on Sunday, including Chapala and Tlajomulco, which would be entitled to resources from Fonden in order to provide shelter, food and healthcare for those left homeless by the storms.

However, the following day, the Jalisco government issued a different list of 21 municipalities, including seven not listed by the Interior Ministry at the expense of others, such as Chapala and Tlajomulco, which were in line to receive federal funds. The municipalities listed by the state government will receive relief funds through the State National Disaster Fund (Foeden).

Across Mexico, the storms caused damage to 43,000 schools in ten states, federal Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet revealed this week. Jalisco’s schools suffered no serious infrastructural damage, the state education department reported, but classes were suspended in 588 schools last week because the storms had blocked access to the buildings.

In the badly hit state of Guerrero, the thousands of tourists stranded in Acapulco were finally able to return home after the port’s international airport reopened on Sunday, a week after closing due to power cuts and extensive flooding.

Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos reported this week that the military had deployed 8,000 troops from the Army, Air Force and Navy, as well as 12 aircraft and 22 helicopters (including a Black hawk which crashed in Guerrero) to provide assistance across Mexico.

But the military was not the only “institution” leading relief efforts across Mexico. A video posted to YouTube on Sunday shows the Gulf Cartel delivering aid to the people of Aldama in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.

“If they help it’s because they have heart,” the video proclaimed of the gang members who loaded at least seven pick-up trucks with supplies and traveled to rural communities to disperse the goods to those affected by tropical storm Ingrid last week.

In the video the cartel also criticizes the nation’s politicians for not doing enough to help the people. Although philanthropic efforts such as this may seem incongruous coming from organizations that normally deal in drug-trafficking and extortion, Mexico’s more traditional cartels have long sought to win the support of local “constituents” by building roads, schools and churches in areas where the government has little presence.

Aid in Jalisco was distributed by more conventional organizations this week, with the Red Cross sending 2,000 food packages to Ciudad Guzman to be redistributed in the neediest areas in the south of the state.

The Archbishop of Guadalajara, Cardinal Jose Francisco Robles Ortega, urged people to donate but also called for the authorities to ensure that all donations made it to their intended destinations.

“There is a certain distrust because in previous cases it was proven that donations did not reach their destinations, they did not arrive on time and it was proven that these donations were used for political purposes,” the Cardinal said.

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