MEXICO CITY (Sept 12): Nearly a year after a 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Mexico, killing 369 people, activists said Tuesday that corruption and negligence caused the collapse of dozens of buildings.
Cost-cutting by construction companies, combined with graft or incompetence by the authorities responsible for regulating them, amplified the tragedy of the Sept 19, 2017 quake, said the group Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity.
"Earthquakes don't kill people. Corruption, official negligence and the gluttony of real estate and construction companies... make the damage caused by earthquakes much greater than it should be," said Salvador Camarena, research director at the organization.
The group published in-depth research into 28 of the 38 buildings that collapsed in Mexico City, the sprawling capital of 20 million people.
The research includes official documents, interviews with residents and analysis of the construction materials and practices used -- which often did not match those described in the paperwork.
The reports are a damning picture of the local authorities and their often shady ties with the real estate industry.
In many cases, both were seemingly indifferent to the city's history of deadly earthquakes, including one that struck on the same date in 1985, killing more than 10,000 people.
"The (authorities) allowed a shameless real estate boom in areas where there were known fault lines, and those are precisely the areas... where the damage was worst," said the local writer Hector de Mauleon at a press conference where the study was launched.
Several victims told their stories of losing their life savings or their loved ones in the collapsed buildings.
Judith Rodriguez Ruiz lived next to a shoddily built factory in the central Portales neighborhood. The factory fell on her family's house that day.
"That house represented all the vacations we never took, the schools we couldn't afford to send our daughters to," she said.
The authorities have opened investigations into numerous cases of corruption linked to building collapses -- including that of a school where 19 children and seven adults died.
But, as in 1985, there has so far been total impunity for implicated officials, said Thelma Gomez of Mexicans Against Corruption.
"Justice has not been done in any of the cases where a building collapsed and people died," she said.