35 years ago, The Washington Post exposed corruption in the De la Madrid administration

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By William A. Orme Jr.
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, September 20, 1986; Page A01

MEXICO CITY, SEPT. 1986 — More than 80,000 people are still living in temporary shelters in streets and parks one year after their homes were destroyed by the Mexico City earthquake, putting officials on the defensive about slow-moving reconstruction efforts.

In the government’s latest effort to show progress in its earthquake housing programs, President Miguel de la Madrid ceremonially presented disaster victims with titles to 6,300 new federally built apartments yesterday, bringing to 23,600 the number of families said officially to have received permanent new homes.

The president proclaimed a day of national mourning on the first anniversary of the quake today and all radio stations went silent for one minute at 7:18 a.m., the hour the first of several quakes and aftershocks hit the city.

In all, officials estimated, the Sept. 19, 1985 earthquake left about 90,000 families in need of housing aid. Another 52,000 apartments are to be completed before the earthquake’s second anniversary, according to administration officials. But two years after the disaster, they acknowledged, at least 10,000 families will probably remain unhoused.

Officials had originally promised to provide housing for all affected families by last Christmas. But while 12,500 unoccupied state housing units were quickly handed out to homeless government employees, according to official accounts, construction of most new housing projects did not get underway until Easter.

Cuauhtemoc Abarca, the coordinator of a combative coalition of organizations representing the homeless, led protest marches against the program’s slow progress, bitterly criticizing the government’s decision to spend international aid on the reconstruction of schools and hospitals instead of housing.

“This money was given to help the people, the victims of the earthquake, and the government kept the money for itself,” he complained in an interview.

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