PULSE NEWS MEXICO
Mexico City Governor and presidential hopeful Claudia Sheinbaum — who is already embroiled in a series of politically damning scandals, including at least four major accidents in the capital’s public metro system under her watch, surging crime and murder rates citywide, the alleged unorthodox treatment for covid-19 patients and allegations of nepotistic contracts — suffered yet another blow to her 2024 ambitions on Friday, Feb. 3, with the rejection of her five-year-belated apology to the parents and other family members of 19 children and seven adults who died as a result of an elementary school during the Sept. 19, 2017, earthquake.
During a memorial on Thursday, Feb. 2, to pay homage to the 26 fatalities of 2017 collapse of the Enrique Rébsamen School, Sheinbaum, who had previously tried to place the blame for the tragedy on other people, finally apologized to the victims’ family members.
“I am here, as a representative of the Mexico City government, to offer a sincere and heartfelt public apology to the victims and their families for the irreparable loss derived from the collapse of the Rébsamen School,” Sheinbaum said.
In addition, Sheinbaum, who as mayor of the Tlálpan municipality when the school, which is located there, was first constructed, said that she had ordered that the school be demolished on two separate occasions, once in 2010 and once in 2014, but that the school’s owner, Mónica García Villegas, had never complied with those orders.
Sheinbaum also promised free school books and other benefits to all Rébsamen students as a gesture of compensation.
However, the family members were not satisfied with Sheinbaum’s apology.
“With the public apology, the damage we have suffered has not been repaired,” said Francisco Quintero, father of one of the children who died in the collapse and spokesperson for the other parents.
“We do not want more public apologies to be given or more memorials to be made to our children. We want our children and nothing will ever replace them.”
“In an instant, corruption killed all the hopes and dreams we had for our children. It snatched from us the experiences we’ll never share,” added Mireya Rodríguez, whose seven-year-old daughter Paola died in the collapse.
“There is no measure of compensation that can make amends for the pain of not having our children with us.”
Rodríguez has publicly blamed Sheinbaum for the Rébsamen collapse in the past.
Yet another family member, Francisco Quintero, whose seven-year-old son Paco was also among the victims, said: “I don’t want anyone to be in my shoes, shoes I didn’t want to put on, ones that don’t fit me. I simply cannot walk the same after I was forced to put them on. It is unthinkable to accept an apology if there are not substantial changes that accompany it.”
The 2017 Mexico earthquake killed a total of 369 people, over 200 of those in the capital.
As with several other buildings that crumbled to the ground during the quake, accusations of corruption hounded city and school officials following the tragedy.
In October 2020, Rébasmen owner García Villegas was sentenced to 31 years in prison on charges of culpable homicide and criminal negligence for adding a fourth floor to the building in an area of the city in which the subsoil makes such constructions unsafe.
An appeal by the Mexico City Attorney General’s office led to an extension of that term to 36 years in August 2021.
Two engineers involved in the construction were also found guilty of culpable homicide, while one other was found guilty of negligent homicide.