Metro tragedy

Who is to blame for Mexico City's metro tragedy and what are the repercussions?

An independent investigation, carried out by the Norwegian consultancy DNV, into the collapse of the Linea 12 metro line in Mexico City, has pointed to structural flaws as the cause of the accident. The preliminary inquiry described how a lack of bolts, badly executed welding, loss of shape on beams and the use of different types of concrete all contributed to the fatal outcome.

A senior figure at the Metro Union was disappointed by the findings, “It [the report] was handwashing, almost blaming the bricklayers, as if there was no blame for a lack of supervision, for mismanagement of construction, for poor maintenance and so on. It was not a surprise though, we were never confident that there would be a real investigation to punish the culprits.”

“It was handwashing, almost blaming the bricklayers, as if there was no blame for a lack of supervision, for mismanagement of construction, for poor maintenance and so on.”

Metro Union representative, Mexico

Speculation around the identity of these senior ‘culprits’ centred around: Marcelo Ebrard – the current Minister of Foreign Affairs and the former Mayor of Mexico City when Linea 12 was constructed, Claudia Sheinbaum – the current Mayor of Mexico City and Grupo Carso – the Mexican conglomerate, owned by Carlos Slim, that constructed the line.

Ebrard and Sheinbaum were once tipped as potential successors to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but no more as a political analyst explained, “Ebrard is keeping a low profile, he will spend a season in exile to clear the air, if he can rebuild his image he may try to run in 2024. Sheinbaum is in a much worse position, she is also burdened by decisions around COVID, she looks tired. The one advantage for both is that AMLO likes them, he will weave a narrative to exonerate them both.”

“Ebrard is keeping a low profile, he will spend a season in exile to clear the air […] Sheinbaum is in a worse position.”

Political analyst, Mexico

The political analyst continued to outline how AMLO was already changing the narrative, “It is not convenient for AMLO’s friends to come out badly from this. They [the government] have already succeeded in shutting down the voices of those who are demanding justice, by bringing up other topics to divert the attention of the media.” The Union representative was saddened by the government’s response, “What hurts is that the President is trying to minimise what happened, making it seem like the whole tragic accident was somehow a plot against him. They believe money will compensate for the pain but we won’t forget the 26 dead or the wounded.”

The public prosecution office of Mexico City has opened its own investigation which will likely determine the imposition of fines and sanctions on those responsible for the accident. At the same time, victims have started legal action to seek compensation. Grupo Carso would be the obvious target, as the Metro Union representative explained, “I don’t think it will go beyond a large fine for Grupo Carso, nothing that will harm [Carlos] Slim’s reputation”

Grupo Carso has stated that it will not make any comments until the final investigative report is released.

Ebrard said that he supports all inquiries into the accident but claimed that, in addition to the technical report, inquiries should review the entire decision-making process in the design, layout, supervision and maintenance of the work.

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