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PostA Tale of Disaster Relief in Mexico; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA, 11/28/16 11:58 am)
Gary Moore writes:
Here's an odd sequel to Eugenio Battaglia's (November 27) recollection of the Mussolini government rebuilding an earthquake-ravaged town in two months: In April 2007 a freak EF3 tornado devastated a remote portion of the US-Mexico border, hopping disastrously through the Rio Grande cities of Eagle Pass, Texas, and Piedras Negras, Mexico, the latter in the border state of Coahuila. FEMA deployed into the US-side ruins, but soon was embarrassed, for while talking and plans proceeded in Eagle Pass, the Mexican state authorities over on the other side had already cleared away their debris--and were offering to come across the river and help the US do likewise.
A small army of volunteers, composed largely of Coahuila state employees turned responders, did cross and help, in one of the signature efforts of cross-border cooperation. The Coahuila state governor, Humberto Moreira, came off as the can-do cutter of Gordian knots, along with his brother and adviser, who was heavily involved. I was in a position, in that time and place of ironies, to delve into the mysterious lag that made US efforts slow: It was because FEMA, unlike authorities in Mexico, was constrained by US checks and balances, and had to individually obtain permissions from all the different property owners from whose land debris had to be removed. Mexico simply went in and did it--the opposite of the initiative picture in the stereotypes, with their lagging Mexico and snappy US.
In this peculiar tale are an infinitude of lessons, cautions and hidden snares, one of the smaller of which was that at that time, in 2007, Piedras Negras prided itself as the "white city" that was free of Mexico's then-emerging drug-cartel violence, if for no other reason because it was so far away from anything else. You could drink--or sing--in the landmark watering hole in Piedras Negras where John Wayne had hung out during filming (another irony) of The Alamo, and then you could walk the streets of Piedras at any hour unmolested. I never dreamed what was coming.
A few years later the Zetas expanded west from Nuevo Laredo. Coahuila was engulfed by such human storms as the Allende massacre (my previous post). Now the miracle-maker, Humberto Moreira, is in exile in Spain, after arrest for awhile for involvement with the gore of organized crime. What does this say about rebuilding villages in record time? Maybe it says that in the real world there really are ways to make the trains run on time--but it's dicey business, on both the front end and the back, and deals with many tornadoes.
JE comments: Eugenio Battaglia sent in a correction: the Vulture earthquake occurred on July 23rd, 1930. Still, rebuilding a town in three months might only be possible through the strong hand of authoritarianism. Or consider China's ability to construct massive high-speed railways in record time. Gary Moore gives us another example, from Mexico.