Oaxaca Floods

October 11th, 2010

The majority of local media show a lack of interest regarding the
situation in Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec. After the last body was recovered
from under the mudslide, the media has either refused to report any
further or has minimized the current situation of our community. In light
of this situation, the municipal and agrarian authorities together with
the Community Radio “Jenpoj”, wish to report on the high risk conditions
in our muncipality as well as the organization we have been building in
various community meetings. These meetings have been held in order to fill
the gaping holes left by the oportunist government attention and the
misinformation by the mass media who then suddenly stopped paying
attention.

After some government authorities accused us of “lying, and capitalizing”
on the tragedy, and later affirmed that in Tlahuitoltepec “there¥s no
problem”, a judgement also shared by some media as well, on October 8th
the recommendations of the State Institute for Civil Protection released
studies conducted by personnel from the National Politechnical Instite of
Land and Science in the affected areas. These studies concluded that the
extent of damage reaches further than the area intitally expected. They
have found unmistakeable indicators of shifting land in a number of areas
which put at risk the physical integrity and the communal lands,
buildings, houses, etc. of over 3,000 inhabitantes of the municipal
center. It is important to note that these 3,000 people are not considered
in the emergency shelter facilities set up til now.

Since October 9th people from the Department of Land Studies of the
Autonomous Univerity Chapingo have confirmed in their studies the
seriousness of the cracks in the land and insisted in the complete
evacuation of the inhabitantes in the risk areas of the municipal center.

Before these warnings the Tlahuitoltepec community members lead by
municpal and agrarian authorities have organized ourselves in teams to do
work that, in many cases corresponds to the government rescue teams who
minimized the situation. We have organized comissions to work on health,
security, communication, shelter building, and the reception and
distribution of aid. The reception and distribution of aid requires
efforts from men and women of the municipal and agrarian authorities as
well as volunteers who have worked towards ensuring food, primarily in the
shelters. Once again we wish to thank the aid we have recieved from
various organizations and communities. All the aid has been handed over to
the community police, the community authorities, and to the shelters.

In light of the results of the investigations, the community is in a
meeting process to make decisions regarding the warning for complete
evacuation of the area affected by the land splits and shifts in the
ground.

Government agencies such as the Secretary of Environment and Natural
Resources (SEMARNAT) and the Secretary of Social Development (SEDESOL)
have begun a census to, according to their norms, determine which families
will receive support for the loss of their houses. We must warn that their
criteria only applies to families that have completely lost their homes
while for those that have lost parts or are situated in high risk zones
with unihabitable conditions, support is not guaranteed. The Secretary of
Rural Development (SEDER) has begun to solicit documentation to identify
which families have been affected by the loss of farmland without yet
disclosing which type of support will be offered. The Attorney’s Office
for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) suggests the donation of wood for
the construction of shelters. Even so, it is not clear that the
coordination between the federal and state institutions will lead to the
development of comprehensive proposals that will attend t
o the immediate needs of the population and the lack of security on the
land. Their participation is still sporadic and there has yet to be
follow-up on their interventions.

A member from (Oaxaca’s future governor) Gabino Cue’s public relations
office recently came to the municipality under the pretext of buliding an
inter-institutional work team, even though the governor has not yet taken
office. He promised that there would be a representative from the office
who would follow up on organizational activities. According to the words
of the head of office of the elected governor, Alfredo de la Rosa, “the
reconstruction of Oaxaca has to begin in Tlahuitoltepec, because it
represents the cutlural identitiy of the state.”

We insist we must all keep our eyes on Tlahuitoltepec as the investigators
have raised an alert flag based on the behavior of the land since the
intense rainfall. The effects have a wide range if we consider that
economic activities in many sectors has stopped all together. Educational
institutions have suspended activity as well a carpenters, builders,
diverse trade workers, buisnesses, and, of course, farming.

We regret the lack of social committement and professionalism the media
has shown as well as the serious lack of minimal criteria and facts when
putting news together. They have shown great ignorance on how we run our
villages through community organization as well as apathy and a lack of
sensitivity to the situation we are facing.  On the other hand we would
like to point out that some media has been capable of reporting precise
information and have been responsable in their work of maintaing the
general population informed. They have been supportive and are still
keeping their focus on what is happening in the region.

Tlahuitoltepec needs socially committed journalism which Community Radio
“Jenpoj” to the present day has proven to practice. It is a community run
media tool that is maintained by donations in its operating team as well
as its material resources and has been the source of information for a
number of state, national, and international media, despite, once again we
must mention, the constante descrediting and harrasment on the part of
coporate media  who were initally asked for support. In the most critical
moments of the tragic events, the media that broadcasted through radio,
television, and newpapers got their information from the community radio.
Now these media stations can have easier access to information without the
complications they faced earlier being as they are not used the conditions
in rural villages.

Once again the community organization of Tlahuitoltepec proves that it is
possible to build strategies with diffent organisms including government
offices as well as civil society to respond to this situation.

Recently the community assembly decided to carry out an emergency plan
that includes, aside from the commissions previously mentioned, comissions
in charge of electricty, management, vigiliance and monitoring, security,
health, education, communication and press, and maintaining and reparing
roads and bridges. There will also be a commission in charge of designing
plan for reconstruction that will rely on collective work.

As far as the state and federal institutions, we insist on their
coordination in a inter-institutional effort in line with the municipal
and agrarian authorities in order to do an adequate follow-up.

The continuing of land studies that were recommended as urgent action will
depend on the response of the institutions involved. For now we will ask
the National Autonomous University of Mexico to send geophysicists,
geologists, and civil engineers.

For the strength and autonomy of our peoples.

Community Radio Jenpoj Collective

Municipal and Agrarian authorities of Santa Maria

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