[Marxism] Fwd: [pen-l] The Mexican Earthquakes in Perspective

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Sep 30 16:43:16 MDT 2017

From: 	'david barkin' via Progressive Economics

*The Mexican Earthquakes in Perspective*
Mexico suffered two powerful earthquakes in September 2107.**The first, 
with magnitude 8.2 took place on September 7.With its epicenter off the 
Pacific coast of southern Mexico, it caused damage mainly in the states 
of Chiapas and Oaxaca. The second took place on September 19 and had a 
magnitude of 7.1, with its epicenter about 75 miles (120 kilometers) 
southeast of Mexico City, damaged the surrounding area, including Mexico 
David Barkin and Blanca Lemus
David Barkin is Distinguished Professor at the Metropolitan Autonomous 
University, Xochimilco Campus in Mexico.
Two earthquakes in Mexico in the same month; the most recent on the 
32^nd anniversary of the massive tremor that occasioned more than 10,000 
deaths!  This time the direct toll in human life was much lower, because 
our society was better prepared and because the dynamics of the events 
spared us the most damaging shock waves. Nevertheless, the enormous gap 
between the official response and the social mobilization has once again 
graphically demonstrates the unwillingness and inability of the public 
sector to attend to its basic responsibilities to confront the tragedy 
of the most needy sectors of the population; this is exacerbated by its 
systematic discrimination against communities in regions whose elected 
official are members of opposition parties.  In contrast, throughout the 
country citizens groups (civil society) have spontaneously and generally 
with care organized their efforts and channeled resources to assist many 
of the neediest; unfortunately, some of the most serious affected 
regions are in remote areas with poor infrastructure and lack of 

In the Valley of Mexico, this same problem is manifesting itself in 
other ways.  Brigades of personnel from the government are being 
mobilized to organize rescue operations and channel resources to the 
numerous shelters that have been set up around the city. Here again, the 
spontaneous organization of local citizens groups and professional 
organizations is particularly evident—the virtual avalanche of supplies 
from the population in general arriving at the supply centers is 
extraordinary and heartwarming. It is a stark contrast to the 
testimonies from local citizens of numerous incidents of local 
government officials in the many parts of the country redirecting public 
resources to privileged political groups or frankly appropriating these 

The stories of heroic efforts by local citizen groups is heartwarming.  
One testimony by a neighbor in a housing complex in the southern sector 
of the Valley appears to be typical:

My sons and grandchildren have not stopped pulling pieces of concrete 
and bricks from the ruins and distributing food and water among the 
rescue brigades and neighbors, especially in the furthest removed and 
poorest of the townships in the Valley.

My wife is the heroine of the complex. She organized a supply center 
that now has 70 committed and enthusiastic teenagers involved in 
organizing the effort. They collected more than 21 tons [of] 
non-perishables, medicines, and household necessities, arranging for the 
transport to send them to the poorest smaller communities in neighboring 
states where official aid has still to arrive, with drivers and helpers 
to assure their safe delivery. Upon arrival, they joined the local 
brigades to help in the cleanup work.

Excess contributions will eventually be channeled to the National 
University’s massive supply center (based on voluntary citizen 
contributions) for further redistribution.

The contrast is repeating itself in other dimensions of life in the 
Valley.  Numerous buildings have collapsed or will have to be demolished 
because of serious structural damage (probably several hundred). It is 
already evident that many of these are newer buildings, certified under 
the reformed construction codes implemented after the earlier earthquake 
(1985). Citizen and journalistic reports of shoddy construction and 
systematic violations of structural norms are testimony to a voracious 
real estate boom that was transforming the urban environment and 
increasing official corruption.  As this problem becomes increasingly 
evident in the aftermath of the quake, several important groups of 
structural engineers and construction consulting firms are establishing 
a parallel system of inspection and certification for the population. 
They are incorporating the outpouring of student volunteers, training 
them to help them in the time-consuming task of evaluating the hundreds 
of buildings where cracks and falling pieces are sowing fear in the 
residents. This example makes it is clear that the deeply-engrained 
culture of corruption is threatening all aspects of our life here in Mexico.

But the human toll is the most significant tragedy. The official death 
toll is already over 300, and is expected to rise as the demolition and 
cleanup operations continue. My neighbor helped me put this this into 
context:  Mexico’s death rate was about 5.3 per 1000 in 2016 for a 
population of 130 million, this translates in 670,000 deaths in 2016, of 
which about 62,000 were in Mexico City.  Of these, slightly more than 
1,000 were homicides and about 1,800 due to traffic incidents, including 
pedestrians and passengers in public transit. Of the remaining deaths, 
some 30,000 can be attributed to poverty and extreme poverty: about 100 
times the toll from the natural disaster and 30 times greater than the 

Thus, when considering the human tragedy of this month’s events in 
Mexico, it is important to bear in mind that the poor and very poor of 
our society support the burden of “SILENT EARTHQUAKES” every day of the 
year, every year of their lives.

_This is the heart of the problem we live with._

The “system”—with its tightly controlled means of communication, its 
public policies, the indifference in the face of poverty, and the 
disdain for the poor that isolates and marginalizes them for the simple 
fact of their being poor—denies them any process of social inclusion 
while labeling their protests and acts of resistance as “populist” or 
worse, has foreclosed the possibility of guaranteeing the same level of 
security for all. It is unwilling to guarantee a basic level of 
well-being for these groups, to assure an adequate education for all, to 
provide health services compatible with the level of development of this 
“middle income” country.


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