Relatives of Mexico metro crash victims demand justice

Mexico City, MexicoUpdated: May 07, 2021, 10:05 AM IST

The derailment occurred on Line 12 of the subway system at Olivos Station, according to Mexico's civil protection agency. Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rejected accusations that his austerity drive was a factor in Monday's accident, when a section of elevated track collapsed, bringing a train crashing down

Demands for justice mounted Thursday as relatives buried the victims of Mexico City's metro disaster, accusing the authorities of negligence that cost the lives of 25 people.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rejected accusations that his austerity drive was a factor in Monday's accident, when a section of elevated track collapsed, bringing a train crashing down.

But at funerals in the capital, devastated families demanded an explanation for how the tragedy occurred and called for those at fault to be held to account.

"It wasn't our fault. The authorities are responsible," 17-year-old Luis Diaz told AFP after burying his father Juan Luis Diaz, who usually traveled by bus, but on the day of the accident took the metro instead.

"We were not the only ones affected. Other people also lost their relatives. Many people are injured," he said.

Luis Hernandez, whose father was also among the dead, said that he wanted "justice for my mother, because my father was the breadwinner of the household."

The 61-year-old  was traveling in one of the two carriages that fell when the overpass collapsed.

"My father's dead and nobody can bring him back," Hernandez said.

"We're going to file a lawsuit, but right now we want to get through all this," his mother said, crying inconsolably.

The victims also included a 12-year-old boy, Brandon Giovanny, who was laid to rest on Wednesday.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum told a news conference that Norwegian engineering company DNV, which has been tasked with helping prosecutors with the investigation, would carry out "a root cause analysis" of the accident.

"That is, what's caused this situation in general terms since its construction," she said.

The metro line which partially collapsed, the city's newest, has been plagued by a series of problems since it was inaugurated in 2012.

A metro workers union has complained that engineers had already reported concerns about the line on various occasions. 

The organization Mexicans Against Corruption has alleged that Lopez Obrador's austerity drive resulted in cuts to the metro network's budget.

The employers' association Coparmex has also suggested that the accident was linked to public spending reductions -- a claim that the president has strongly denied.

"Investigations have already begun to find the causes of this accident... and punish those responsible," the left-wing populist told reporters on Thursday.

The metro system's budget is based on an annual projection of ticket sales and contributions from the government.

"Given the pandemic, there was a reduction associated with the fall in its own income," said Sheinbaum, a close ally of Lopez Obrador.

"The government had to make an additional subsidy to the subway," she told reporters.

The accident comes just a month before June 6 midterm legislative elections in which Lopez Obrador's party aims to retain control of the lower house of Congress.

The furor has engulfed two of his political proteges and leading contenders to be the ruling party candidate in the 2024 presidential elections.

One of them, Sheinbaum, faces questions about whether the network has been adequately maintained since she took office in 2018.

The other, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, oversaw the development and inauguration of the line involved in the crash in his former position as Mexico City mayor.

Ebrard has promised to cooperate fully with the investigation into the accident.

He said that his administrative responsibility for the project ended after his 2006-2012 term.

"It's known that the first indications about the faults in the elevated part of the line occurred after the 2017 earthquake," which left 370 people dead, mainly in the capital, Ebrard said.