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LatinNews Daily - 20 October 2021

MEXICO: Ebrard denies Line 12 responsibility

On 19 October Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, defended his role in building Line 12 of the Mexico City metro, after prosecutors charged 10 people and organisations with responsibility for a fatal accident on the line in May this year, which killed 26 people.

Analysis:

Although the next Mexican presidential elections will not be held until two and a half years from now (mid-2024), both Ebrard and Claudia Sheinbaum, head of the Mexico City (CDMX) government, are widely tipped as potential candidates for nomination by the ruling Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (Morena) party to succeed President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In what might be considered a twist of fate, both were involved in building Line 12 of the metro. Any association with the safety failings which led to the disastrous collapse of an elevated section of the railway line could terminate their presidential hopes.

  • At the start of this week the Mexico City prosecutor’s office said it would present charges for homicide, injuries, and property damage linked to the 3 May accident. An independent auditor had earlier detected serious flaws in the project.
  • Ebrard, who was head of the city government from 2006-2012, during the commissioning and construction of Line 12, denied any wrongdoing saying that “It is very difficult for the mayor to supervise… a consortium with many companies participating”.
  • Although prosecutors did not name those charged, a lawyer confirmed that he was acting for a group of five defendants, including Enrique Horcasitas, former general director of the Line 12 project who had reported directly to Ebrard.
  • Companies in the consortium that built the line, including Mexico’s Grupo Carso (owned by entrepreneur Carlos Slim) and Alston of France may face compensation claims. 

Looking Ahead: Since the presidential race is still very distant, both Ebrard and Sheinbaum may hope that the controversy over Line 12 will fade over time. However, the political (rather than purely legal) risks to them will remain significant. With investigations continuing and more charges expected, any direct link to safety failings could set back one or the other’s chances of running for the top job.