Mexico - Mexico’s hurricane reconstruction plans prioritize military barracks, owners left to rebuild hotels
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s government laid out hurricane reconstruction plans Tuesday for the resort of Acapulco that seem to give as much priority to building military barracks as re-opening hotels.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he hoped owners would be able to reopen as many as 35 of the resort’s 377 hotels by March or April, following the destruction of Hurricane Otis, the Category 5 storm that smashed into the city Oct. 25.
But his administration plans to build 38 new barracks in the resort for the quasi-military National Guard, in addition to five that already exist there. Each barracks will house 250 Guard troopers, who are recruited from or trained by the army.
That would mean between 9,500 and 10,000 Guard troops would be stationed permanently in the resort, about the same number sent there following the hurricane, which caused at least 48 deaths.
In the days following the storm’s Oct. 25 landfall, Guard troops proved incapable of stopping days of ransacking that stripped every large- and medium-sized store in Acapulco to the walls.
López Obrador has promised a barracks in every neighborhood of the resort, which has also been hit by nearly 20 years of drug cartel violence. The president has given the armed forces almost exclusive control of the fight against the cartels and has proposed placing the National Guard under army command.
Soldiers guard the streets while residents take items from local stores after Hurricane Otis ripped through Acapulco, Mexico, Oct. 26, 2023. (Felix Marquez/AP)
López Obrador has refused to consider government loans or grants to the hotels, most of which had windows or walls blown out. Many were reduced to their skeletal concrete or steel frames.
Instead, he said the government would pay half the interest on reconstruction loans from private banks. But with no cash flow, many hotel owners doubt they can qualify for big private bank loans.
López Obrador has also refused to earmark specific funds in the 2024 budget for reconstruction efforts, a move that has led to demonstrations by a protest caravan of Acapulco residents who drove to Mexico City this week.