Data compiled by structural engineers at Stanford University and viewed by the Associated Press show that about two-thirds of the 44 Mexico City buildings that collapsed because of the Sept. 19 earthquake were designed with a construction method still legal in Mexico, but forbidden in other earthquake-prone countries.
The construction method, known as "flat slab," was a "crucial reform" that authorities failed to pass after the 1985 earthquake which killed thousands. However, at the time, builders pressured city officials (who were under great pressure to produce results quickly) to avoid an outright ban on flat slab construction.
The reliance on flat slab construction isn't the only reason why Mexico City experienced extensive damage after the Sept. 19 quake: the AP found that corrupt Mexico City officials found other ways to take shortcuts around building codes, and rush through approvals for buildings that lacked licensed engineers, among other issues.
One fundamental problem that helps feed corruption -- and consequently make city residents more vulnerable to earthquake damage -- is that Mexico City laws require "private engineers — not government experts — [to] vet projects’ structural safety, and even city officials say the process can be vulnerable to corruption," the AP reports.
For another look at how Mexican government regulations are arguably making citizens more vulnerable to earthquake disasters, Animal Politico reports that Mexico only allows one type of seismic alert system to be sold across the country, at marked-up prices.
- Haiti asked the U.S. for a formal extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows migrants from conflicted countries to live and work temporarily in the U.S. Haiti's TPS is up for renewal in January, reported The Miami Herald. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also due to consider renewing TPS status for Salvadorans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans.
- El Faro reports that Honduras will shut down the country's second-largest prison by the end of October. Authorities are set to demolish the prison -- which is largely run by gangs -- once all inmates have been transferred to other facilities. The article states that there are an estimated 18,000 inmates distributed across 30 prisons in Honduras, as well as military and police jails.
- The national defense committee in Peru's Congress motioned that they would support passing a law that would transfer members of the security forces convicted of human rights abuses to military prisons, reported La Republica. A human rights lawyer described the proposed law as "a prize for members of the military who have committed human rights crimes."
- The wife of former Mexico President Felipe Calderon is preparing to run as an independent for the July 2018 presidential elections. This could ultimately end up helping ruling party the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) by causing the opposition to become even more divided, according to The Wall Street Journal. More from Reuters.
- Regional elections are scheduled for October 15 in Venezuela, and Reuters notes that the race for governor in Barinas state is emblematic of the many challenges that opposition candidates are facing. These challenges include demoralized supporters, a confusing ballot sheet, and the extensive state resources -- including hours of air-time on state media channels and access to helicopters for travel to rural areas -- enjoyed by "Chavista" candidates.
- Cuba's vice president (and Raul Castro's most likely successor) strongly hinted that he does not support rapprochement with the United States in a speech made Sunday, reported The Miami Herald.
- Brazilian authorities are investigating a U.S. evangelical church that may have made improper land deals and systematically abused young recruits, who were forced to work for church-affiliated businesses for little to no pay. From the AP.
- Reuters reports on Brazil's struggle to come up with campaign funds for its scandal-ridden politicians, in light of the ban against corporate donations. Last week Brazil's Congress approved a $541 million pool of public money for political campaigns (which will co-exist alongside a separate, multi-million dollar pool of funds that supports political party activity).
- Last week's arrest of the former governor of Mexico's Tamaulipas state is "illustrative of the failure of both the state and federal government to crack down on corruption," says InSight Crime, as the ex-governor has been wanted in the U.S. for money laundering since 2015.
- Confidencial examines the Nica Act, which, if approved by U.S. Congress, would oppose loans at international financial institutions for Nicaragua, unless the government took steps to show it is becoming more transparent and democratic. The article notes there's little chance of Congress voting on the Nica Act in the near future, but the prospect has already provided fuel to President Daniel Ortega supporters, who are blaming the country's woes on the U.S.
- InSight Crime published a version of a piece that originally appeared on The Conversation, looking at ongoing efforts by Bogota security forces to "clean up" the city's open air drug dens (known as "ollas"). The article argues that "a strategy of violent displacement followed by investment and gentrification is not the answer."
- Latin American diplomats were among those who spoke to The Washington Post about their views of the Trump administration as chaotic and unlikely to improve anytime soon. One unnamed Latin American diplomat told the newspaper that things have improved after John Kelly's appointment as chief of staff, “At least with process, if not policy."
- Peru's Ojo Publico has partnered with NGOs the Engine Room (which creates digital tools for social change), Paraguay's Tedic, and Ciudadano Inteligente, to organize an event in Rio de Janeiro this November to look at different ways investigative journalists and the tech sector can work together to produce transnational investigations on corruption.
- Armando Calderón Sol, El Salvador's first president elected after 12 years of civil war, died Monday in the U.S.
-- Elyssa Pachico