The Washington Post - 29.08.2019

(Joyce) #1




mexico c ity — A t least 27 people
were killed in an attack in the
Mexican state of Veracruz when
assailants apparently locked the
doors and emergency exits of the
popular White Horse Nightclub
and s et t he building on f ire.
The attack late Tuesday came
during a year of record violence
for Mexico, which registered
14,603 homicides from January
through June. The Mexican gov-
ernment under President Andrés
Manuel López Obrador has strug-
gled to piece together an effective
security strategy as criminal or-
ganizations claim new ground,
killing members of rival groups
and c ivilians in t he process.
López Obrador condemned the
attack Wednesday — and suggest-
ed that authorities might have
been complicit i n it.
“This is the most inhuman
thing possible,” López Obrador
said. “It is regrettable that orga-
nized crime acts in this manner.

... It i s more regrettable that there
may be collusion with authori-
Photos of the bar taken in the
aftermath of the attack show a

charred interior with bodies on
the ground. People were seen em-
bracing outside the bar, behind
police tape.
Some early reports indicated
that the fire was started with
homemade bombs. López Obra-
dor, in his morning news confer-
ence, said “the criminals went in,
closed the doors, the emergency
exits, a nd s et f ire to the place.”
“The majority died of suffoca-
tion,” Veracruz Gov. Cuitláhuac
García told the “Sergio y Lupita”
radio program Wednesday morn-
The bar is in the port city of
Coatzacoalcos, which has been
plagued by violence, caused in
part by fractures within the Zetas
criminal organization. Last week,
a 4-month-old child was critically
wounded in a shootout.
In recent years, Mexico has
faced t he dual challenges of t rying
to build a large, effective security
force capable of c racking d own on
crime and also a judicial system
that can hold the guilty account-
able. On both fronts it has strug-
gled, with Veracruz a jarring ex-
ample. The state police force is
61 percent smaller than it should
be, López Obrador said this

The state on the Gulf of Mexico
was supposed to receive 7,
members of the newly formed na-
tional guard, drawn from a mix of
different f ederal and state security
agencies. But many of those offi-
cers have been dispatched on an
immigration enforcement mis-
sion, part of the U.S.-Mexico deal
to reduce the number of migrants
arriving at the U.S. border. López

Obrador, w ho created t he national
guard, once spoke of it as a poten-
tial vanguard in the fight against
organized c rime.
Other parts of Mexico have also
seen dramatic violence in recent
weeks. Cartels were blamed for a
gruesome attack this month in the
western city of Uruapan, where 19
mutilated corpses were left o n dis-
play. A Catholic priest, the Rev.

José Martín Guzmán Vega, was
stabbed to death last week in the
northern city of Matamoros.
Across the country, four journal-
ists have been killed in the past
month alone.
“The fact t hat 2019 is on pace to
be the most violent year does not
come out of nowhere. We have
seen how violence has been pro-
gressively increasing,” said Fran-
cisco R ivas, director g eneral of t he
National Citizen O bservatory, a re-
search group. The increase, he
said, is the result of an “incapacity
of the state, lack of identification
of the p roblem, with no clear goals
or strategies.”
“The president says we are im-
proving, but we are worse than
ever before.”
Within hours of Tuesday’s at-
tack, López O brador s uggested t he
perpetrator had previously been
“arrested a nd r eleased.”
“There is a problem that needs
to be investigated regarding the
actions of t he prosecutor’s o ffice in
Veracruz, and we are telling the
attorney general to look into this
matter,” he said.
López O brador d id n ot mention
anyone by name, but he appeared
to be referring t o a statement f rom
García, the Veracruz governor,

who tweeted about the man he
suggested was behind t he attack.
“The indications of the deplor-
able crime in the Coatzacoalcos
bar s uggest t hat one o f the m ateri-
al authors is Ricardo ‘N’ a.k.a. ‘la
loca’ who was detained by Vera-
cruz security forces in July of this
year and was released in less than
48 hours by the state attorney
general,” García wrote.
The state attorney general
promptly put o ut a statement c on-
tradicting G arcía’s account.
“A t ragedy should n ot be used to
distort facts and confuse public
opinion,” Veracruz Attorney Gen-
eral Jorge Winckler Ortíz said.
He went on to say that Ricardo
“N” was twice detained and re-
leased by the federal government
— on July 18 and Aug. 7 — not the
state attorney general’s o ffice. The
dispute shed light on fractures
within Mexico’s judicial system,
with blame shifting between state
and f ederal authorities.
Authorities in Veracruz said
they were still searching for the

Mary Beth Sheridan and Gabriela
Martinez contributed to this report.

More than 2 dozen killed in fiery attack on Mexican bar

Distraught people are seen outside a bar where at least 27 died in a
fire Tuesday in Coatzacoalcos, in Mexico’s Veracruz state.


sao paulo, brazil — A haze of
toxic smoke clouds the tropical
city of Porto Velho. Now patients
are flooding its health centers.
During the first three weeks of
August, the Cosme and Damião
Children’s H ospital in Porto Velho
admitted more than 400 children
with respiratory problems —
three times the average, accord-
ing to officials. Brazil’s n orthwest-
ern state of Acre reported 47,
cases of respiratory illnesses dur-
ing the same period. Lines at
public health clinics are growing,
and officials say they’re scram-
bling to hire more staff.
As fires spike across the Ama-
zon rainforest, an environmental
challenge is becoming a public

health hazard.
“Every year we have some fires
and issues with smoke, but this
was the worst year of them all,”
said Izaura de Campos, a pediatri-
cian in Porto Velho. “This is the
year when we are finally seeing
what we are breathing.”
Children and the elderly are
most susceptible to smoke-relat-
ed illnesses, doctors say, but any-
one who inhales the pollutants
can be affected. The toxics can
hinder breathing and oxygen flow
and exacerbate chronic condi-
tions s uch as asthma and bronchi-
tis. Prolonged exposure can in-
crease the risk of some cancers.
“Just one day’s exposure to
these pollutants has a critical im-
pact on health,” s aid Marcos Abdo
Arbex, a pulmonologist in Sao

Paulo state who specializes in en-
vironmental diseases.
For those who live downwind
of the flames, there’s no escape.
Authorities in Porto Velho are
telling residents to avoid exercise,
stay inside and shut their win-
Sarah Nachiro keeps her family
inside and her windows closed.
Still, she said, her 4-month-old
son, Henrique, has suffered from
coughing fits so strong he has
turned purple. Weeks of colds and
shortness of breath have left him
on antibiotics. Sarah herself has
been to the emergency room
twice with asthma. She faults the
government response for the ef-
fects on the country’s health.
“It’s a crime,” s he said. “A com-
plete lack of respect for the popu-
lation as a whole but especially
with the children.”
Campos said she has seen twice
as many patients complaining of
respiratory issues and colds as
Fires in the Amazon are com-

mon during the dry season, but
this year has been exceptional.
More than 25,000 fires have been
spotted in the rainforest in Au-
gust alone, a nine-year high, ac-
cording to Brazil’s National Insti-
tute for Space Research.
The fires, many of them set by
farmers and loggers to clear land,
are at the center of a growing
international dispute between
Brazilian President Jair Bolson-
aro and other world leaders.
Bolsonaro campaigned for
president last year on promises to
open the rainforest to more devel-
opment. The platform was popu-
lar in a country struggling
through years of economic stag-
Since his inauguration in Janu-
ary, deforestation has surged. He
has blocked new environmental
protections and is accused of lax
World leaders have described
the Amazon as a global resource, a
key defense against climate
change. It accounts for a quarter

of the carbon dioxide absorbed by
the world’s forests.
Scientists warn that deforesta-
tion is approaching a tipping
point — between 20 percent and
25 percent — when the degrada-
tion could become irreversible,
and rainforest could become sa-
French President Emmanuel
Macron this week announced a
$22 million package from the
Group of Seven nations to help
fight the fires. Bolsonaro, a cli-
mate change skeptic, questioned
their intentions; his government
so far has rejected the offer.
Porto Velho’s s tate of Rondonia
has been scorched by 4,600 fires
this month. The government has
sent 400 soldiers and dozens of
firefighters to the region; military
planes have showered water on
the fires surrounding the city.
Campos, the pediatrician, said
the government isn’t doing
“It’s a massive level of negli-
gence,” s he said. “We don’t s ee any

effective measures to put a stop to
it. People need to be more con-
scious of the impact this has on
the children.”
In a meeting with Bolsonaro on
Tuesday, Amazon state governors
on Tuesday called for federal help
fighting the fires. But they also
stressed that environmental pro-
tection should not get in the way
of economic development.
“We can’t p rotect our rivers and
forests in poverty,” said Helder
Zahluth Barbalho, governor of
Para state. “A s long as our people
are hungry, we can’t conserve.”
Arbex, the pulmonologist,
warned that environmental de-
gradation also has a cost.
“You cannot put a price tag on
the suffering that individuals will
experience,” he said. “But there is
also a rise in costs for people and
the government.
“If there is a huge increase in
emergency room visits and hospi-
talizations, serving that popula-
tion will be more costly.”

Amazon fires create

public health hazard

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