The decision has left much uncertainty as to how the region will recover from the Category 5 storm which left 27 people dead and at least $10billion in damage in the city of Acapulco and neighboring villages.
Mexico’s Fund for Natural Disasters, known as Fonden, was set up in the late Nineties, taking a small portion of the federal budget in order to rapidly respond to natural disasters. It was widely admired as a progressive move.
But when left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador made cost-cutting part of his political platform after he came to office in 2018, the fund was cut.
Now, without dedicated allocation of the federal budget for disaster relief, the money available fluctuates each year.
The president, popularly known as Amlo, justified his decision at the time, claiming Fonden was “an instrument riddled with corruption,” whose funds did not “reach the people”.
Two years later, at a press briefing in the wake of Otis, the president reiterated this claim and accused critics of his decision to cut the fund of playing politics, the Washington Post reported.
“Why are we talking about this if we haven’t even begun the [relief] activities?” he said. “We are clearing fallen trees, looking for missing people, and they have this politically motivated attitude.”
He also insisted the government has a budget to respond to the disaster. “We have guaranteed resources for this,” he said. “When the people of Mexico need support, the entire public budget can be used,” he added.
Otis was the strongest ever storm to make landfall on Mexico’s west coast. The hurricane underwent explosive intensification from a Category 1 to Category 5 in just 12 hours, leaving the city little time to prepare.
The hurricane made landfall shortly after midnight on Wednesday in Acapulco with 165mph winds and torrential rain.
At least 27 people are dead and four are missing.
Some 80 per cent of the city’s hotels were destroyed, and not a single power line was left standing, leaving residents without electricity, cell phone service, or running water.
There was also reports of widespread looting. “You can’t buy anything in Acapulco, not even if you want to,” one resident told AP.
As recovery efforts continue, frustrations are growing at the slow speed of the government’s response to the hurricane, with some 250,000 homes and businesses still without electricity on Thursday.
López Obrador admitted that the government response had been hampered by the hurricane’s impacts during his visit to the city on Thursday.
“When is the government ever going to look after the common people?” one resident asked.