The Mexico City metro tragedy has convulsed the country. After the collapse of Line 12, which caused the death of 26 people and left dozens of injured on May 3, the path to truth and justice began a week ago with the presentation of the first preliminary ruling on the causes of the collapse. . Seven weeks after the incident, no criminal or administrative responsibilities have yet been charged against any of those involved. At the center of what happened are the relatives, the victims who survived and their families. The lawyer Cristopher Estupiñán, who represents 18 affected people, claims in an interview that the compensation offered is “a joke” and that neither the Government nor the companies that built the damaged section have shown their faces. “It is time for the richest businessmen to take responsibility for the first time in the history of the country,” he says.
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“We will seek a payment of tens, if not hundreds of millions of pesos for each victim of Line 12,” the lawyer advances. The head of Government, Claudia Sheinbaum, announced five days after the incident that those affected will receive 650,000 pesos (just over 30,000 dollars) as compensation for the payment of the Collective Transportation System insurance, a figure that was originally half and that is far much of what Estupiñán claims. “It is a mockery for the families, that they do not come to tell us that 650,000 pesos is a comprehensive claim,” says the lawyer, who accuses the victims of pressure to sign the agreement.
One of the compensation documents, to which this newspaper had access, has clauses in which the beneficiary signs “complete satisfaction” with the reparation of the “pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages”, desists from seeking other compensation through legal means and makes a “confidentiality” agreement, which prevents you from disclosing the content of the contract to third parties. “It is disrespectful: what they are saying is’ if you don’t sign this, I won’t give you the check,” insists Estupiñán about the document, prepared by the body that administers the metro and the local government. “They are taking advantage of the vulnerability of the victims to generate files in which the Collective Transport System goes well,” he says.
“It has been a tortuous process, at first the care received by the victims was very diffuse,” says the lawyer. Estupiñán says that the first step is to guarantee that those affected can recover economically and in terms of their health. Some family members have already received food aid and scholarships, and are in permanent contact with the Executive Commission for Attention to Victims. The legal team also seeks that they have access to the investigation folder and the evidence that the Prosecutor’s Office has collected, as well as that they can participate in the trials that are carried out against those responsible. In addition, they have asked to know if the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office has initiated an investigation into possible acts of corruption around Line 12.
Estupiñán says that it is not yet the time to seek an increase in compensation with the Sheinbaum Government, nor has it entered into any type of dialogue with the consortium that built Line 12: ICA, Alstom and Grupo Carso, owned by magnate Carlos Slim and the in charge of the section that fell. “They have not approached us and it does not seem that they intend to do so soon, nor does it seem that the Government has that intention,” he asserts. Slim, Sheinbaum and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met at the National Palace on Tuesday without revealing details about what they discussed. The head of government said last week that she was going to start a dialogue with the companies and announced that she would seek to get them to pay for part of the line’s rehabilitation work.
“What we demand of the construction consortium is that it assume the civil responsibility of its negligence and that it deliver a fair compensation consistent with the profits obtained with this work,” says Estupiñán. “For three administrations, the only thing that the builders have done is to be the favorites of the Government in turn and they continue to be,” adds the lawyer, who points out to the Government and businessmen as “co-responsible.” The position that ICA and Carso have made public is that they will wait for the expert reports to be completed. Alstom has dissociated itself, arguing that it was not involved in the construction of the civil works and that its participation was limited to operational issues of the so-called golden line, inaugurated in October 2012.
Estupiñán and the US law firm The Webster Law Firm are already preparing a civil lawsuit in the US against the companies involved, which will be tentatively filed after August, when the third and final technical expertise requested is scheduled to be delivered to the Norwegian company Det Norske Veritas. The safest thing is that he will appear in a court in New York, a jurisdiction that has become notorious for putting Joaquín on the dock. El Chapo Guzmán or Genaro García Luna, former secretary of Public Security. The legal argument is that the firms have corporate offices in that country. “The United States is a system in which no influentialism will prevail and that historically has punished without shaking its hand and regardless of who is responsible,” says the lawyer, although he clarifies that going to US courts does not imply a lack of trust in Mexican institutions.
Estupiñán envisions that the litigation can last several years in Mexico and the United States, between civil, administrative and, possibly, criminal processes. “It is a battle of David against Goliath,” says Estupiñán. “We have justice and truth on our side, we are not afraid of the monster of industry that they represent and the victims are willing to take this to the last instances.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.