Disasters & Accidents

Impunity reigns 14 years after daycare fire killed dozens of children in northern Mexico

By Daniel Sanchez

Hermosillo, Mexico, Jun 5 (EFE).- Lawyers, parents and survivors of a fire at a daycare facility that killed 49 infants and toddlers in this northern city say impunity continues to reign 14 years later.

Parents of the victims, in particular, have denounced what they says is complicity between Mexico’s federal government and Supreme Court to ensure that those responsible for one of the worst tragedies in the country’s recent history remain unpunished to this day.

Nearly a decade and a half have passed since a deadly blaze ripped through the ABC Day Care Center, but although more than 20 former public officials have been deemed responsible the tragedy, many of those individuals have died and those still alive have not been sentenced.

The only people who have served prison time are those who failed to adhere to their bail conditions or defied other court orders.

Miguel Nava Alvarado, an attorney for 40 of the families, told Efe in an interview that the government has not enforced more than 120 court rulings in favor of the victims.

“In the case of the ABC Day Care Center, injustice and corruption are intertwined and the end result is impunity,” he said.

On June 5, 2009, in Hermosillo, a fire that began in a warehouse run by the Sonora state government spread to the daycare, which was operating under a contract from the Mexican Social Security Institute.

Among other irregularities on the day of the tragedy, the daycare center’s emergency exits were blocked and the facility was not in compliance with required safety measures.

Following the tragedy, accusations were leveled against the federal government (then controlled by the right-wing National Action Party, or PAN) and the state government (led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI), but Nava Alvarado now blames current President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (of the leftist Morena party) for not keeping his promise to ensure justice is served.

“In 14 years of legal proceedings (involving) most of the victims, we can say that the administrations of the PAN, the PRI and Morena are exactly the same. Political parties and officials benefit from the tragedy,” Nava Alvarado said.

The fire also left more than 100 people injured, including children who are still living with the ramifications of that fateful day.

Danna Paola survived the fire, but she lost nine fingers and suffered burns covering 60 percent of her body, as well as irreversible nerve damage that hinders all of her motor functions.

Her mother, Marisol Montaño, lamented that the victims have to keep pleading for justice and fighting to receive medical attention.

“They still have a very big debt with our children. The justice we’ve fought for still hasn’t arrived, and it’s their right, and ours as parents, as well as (the right) of the families who lost a child who could be here today,” the woman said.

Danna Paola has already had undergone more than 30 operations, and dozens more surgeries are still pending to maintain her quality of life.

After the fire, the diagnosis the Mexican doctors gave Danna Paola’s mother was that the then-two-year-old girl would never walk, see or hear, and much less speak, again, but her recovery has been miraculous thanks to the work of specialists at Hospital Shriners Mexico.

She now wants to study information technology engineering so she can develop applications like the ones that have improved her quality of life and thereby help other children suffering from different types of disabilities.

Despite the long-term impact of the ABC Day Care Center fire on her life and health, Danna Paolo said she has nothing to forgive but does believe it is important for justice to be served one day.

“In a certain sense, you could say we don’t know exactly what happened. So we don’t have that part (of forgiveness) clear, but we do feel that some justice is needed,” she added. EFE

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