Monday, June 04, 2007

Puebla, Mexico: State government successfully creates race of super human midgets

Count'em yourself. I make it six.
This youngster has 6 fingers on each hand as well as 6 toes on each foot. 24 digits in all. Reforma took down the original photo that was posted early this morning showing all 24 perfectly formed digits.
UPDATE: Whoops, here it is again.
Count'em yourself. I make it twenty-four.

The title to this post may seem to seek to make light of a tragic situation but I assure you I see no humor in this. It's just that the reaction by state officials to the human suffering would lead one to believe that the Puebla state government is, in fact, in favor of creating mutant midgets.

Where shall we start? Let's try back in 1999 when Puebla University researcher Antonio Valdez García began to report on mutations showing up in children living around the Valsequillo reservoir, about 18 miles south of Puebla City. Prof. García has been updating his reports every year since 1999 and no one has been paying any attention. That's 8 years worth of reports on mutations such as the pictured 6 toes and fingers, cleft lip, cleft palate, skin lesions, low body weights, stunted growth (dwarfism) and babies born with various levels of brain damage. Prof. García's reports were all made available to state health and environmental control officials who, of course, ingnored them.

In addition to the reports on birth defects and mutations, Prof. García did thousands of tests on the water at various points in and around the reservoir. He also has reported faithfully, since 1999, unacceptably dangerous levels of heavy metals including but not limited to lead, chromium, cadmium and mercury in the water. He also took blood samples from the children living in the towns and villages around the reservoir and reported that many had up to 5 times the high limit of lead in their bloodstreams.

Finally, back in October of last year, Reforma got wind of Prof. García and the poisonous brew in the Valsequillo reservoir and sprayed it all over the pages of the newspaper. Again, no meaningful action from state or federal officials.

The Valsequillo reservoir, built in 1946 and whose official name is Manuel Ávila Camacho, named after the crooked PRI president who made a fortune from the construction of the dam that formed the reservoir, ceased to be of any recreational use by about 1980. The water was too filthy and smelled so bad that no one wanted to vacation there anymore. The folks living around the reservoir started digging wells because they couldn't drink the water.

By 1990, the wells had all been poisoned by the water from the reservoir. In 1999, Prof. García began his quixotic quest to inform state officials of the consequences of their incompetence. To no avail, of course.

And it doesn't stop with 6-toed underwight and altitude challenged 12 year-old dwarfs. The reservoir is choked with water lilies -- lily pads -- and is no longer of any use to boaters. However, the campesinos who live near the reservoir send down their cattle to munch on the lily pads. The water lilies are loaded with the heavy metals which then enter the tissues of the cattle. Many of the cattle are milk cows and the poisoned milk is then sold to the townspeople and villagers around the lake as well as sent on to Puebla. The beef cattle as well as older non-producing dairy cattle are butchered and the meat is sold for human consumption in Puebla.

And anybody foolish enough to come in direct contact with the reservoir's water faces outageously high levels of coliform and every imaginable type of amoeba. Colic, diahrrea, salmonella and typhoid are just a few of the deseases listed by Prof. García as risks if you come in any contact with the reservoir's water.

The link above and most of the information up to this point in the post is from the October 29, 2006 Reforma report. Let's fast forward to November 16, 2006, when a state official finally was heard from. This from the state Secretary of Desarrollo Urbano y Obras Públicas de Puebla (SEDUOP), Javier García Ramírez:
It can be seen in the children of the region that they suffer from low height (dwarfism) and they don't grow much because of the high lead contamination of the water. This must be treated as a public health problem.
Gee, ya think?

Sec'y García Ramírez laid out a plan to attack this problem which had been festering (literally) since 1946. First, the state would construct "colectores marginales" (marginal collectors) which would preclude the dumping of raw sewage by some 22 municipaities, including Puebla, the 5th largest city in the country, as well as over 100 waste producing businesses directly into the Atoyac River, the principal source for the reservoir.

Let's think about that first step for just a moment, shall we? What happens when the "colectores marginales" get full, an ocurrence which occurs every day? Why, they open the floodgates and dump it all into the river, just as before the "colectores marginales" were built by a construction company closely allied with one politician's family or another. I can tell you from personal experience that you can shoot a round of golf at the Puebla Country Club in the afternoon and everything is all rosy. Then you pass back through the area at 10:00 at night and the air is unbreathable. The stink will make you wretch. They open the gates and fill the river with raw sewage and industrial waste at night when you can't see it. And the people who live in and around the area on the south side of town continue to march faithfully to the polls and return the PRI to power, just as they have done for 80 some odd years.

We continue with the official "plan" of the state of Puebla. The second step was to be to arrange the construction of sewage treatment plants. But as a "preliminary measure", some 22 cities, towns and villages would have to construct sewage lines. That's right folks, to date there are some 22 municipalities whose sewage treatment process consists solely or at least mainly of tubes running directly to the Rio Atoyac. Do not pass go, do not collect $100. Those 22 municipalities include, but are not limited to Puebla, San Martín Texmelucan, Xoxtla, Cuautlancingo, Coronango, Juan C. Bonilla, Ocoyucan, San Andrés and San Pedro Cholula, Calpan, San Matías Tlalancaleca, San Salvador El Verde, Santa Rita Tlahuapan y Huejotzingo. The raw sewege and industrial effluent comes from as far north as Tlaxcala.

So, afer building "colectores marginales" to hold the raw sewage and industrial effluents for 24 hours or so before dumping it all into the river and later into the Valsequillo reservoir, and then installing sewage systems in 22 municipalities including the 5th largest city in the state, the state officials would then begin to look for financing to build and bring online the sewage treatment plants. The United States contributed 800 thousand dollars for the "development of the rescue plan". The state government has talked to Japanese banks, German banks and the Inter-American Development Bank. That is as far as they have gone with this "rescue plan" as far as I can see.

More from Sec'y García Ramírez:
Over the many past decades, this water (sewage) arrived at the Rio Atoyac (and thence to the Valsequillo reservoir) without treatment; domestic sewage with coliform and industrial sewage with lead or whatever depending on the type of manufacturing plant. Now is the time to clean up the reservoir.
Gee, ya think? But I repeat myself.

Ricardo Meneses, 87, remembers what it was once like:

I need to get this posted so I'll write at least one more post to get you updated. In the meantime, if you've got a subscription to Reforma, you can follow the story's progress, or lack thereof, at the following links:


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