30 people dead, hundreds wounded, thousands displaced because of a petrochemical complex explosion in Mexico

On April 20th, communities in the Veracruz isthamus of Mexico were devastated by an explosion at a petrochemical complex that produced raw materials for the oil and gas industry.  This was the latest in a series of disasters that have resulted in a loss of life involving Pemex and Mexichem.

In 2013, over 50 percent of the interest in the Pajaritos petrochemical complex was sold to a company called Mexichem by Pemex, the state-owned company.  This happened before the approval of the energy reforms which allowed the privatization of many segments of the country's oil industry.  The problem is that there is little or no accountability and very few whistleblower protections incorporated in the energy privatization.  This petition demands accountability for the accident. Signed petitions will be sent to the President of Mexico.  

Since the petition is in Spanish, I have provided an unofficial translation below:


The terrible event which occurred on Wednesday April 20 at the Pajaritos petrochemical complex in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, highlights, in the worst way possible, how poorly the federal government is carrying out the Energy Reform. The tragedy shows the folly of privatizing substantial elements of the operation and safety in the petrochemical sector of ​​Petroleos Mexicanos.

The explosion took place in the Clorados III plant of Petroquímica Mexicana de Vinilo, which was operated by the company Mexichem in partnership with Pemex.  This venture was responsible for the production of PVC raw material used for the manufacture of pipes, water tanks and a host of essential products for the oil and gas industry. The fact that these materials are essential would mean huge profits for the subsidiary. Mexichem expects to increase earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) to $935 million dollars at the end of 2016, a figure higher than the $905 billion dollars (sic) that were achieved the previous year.

However, these gains have not been reflected in the maintenance of the 40+ year old complex. To date (April 28), at least 32 workers at the plant have been killed, more than 100 injured and 8 are missing. The municipalities of Coatzacoalcos, Minatitlan, Nanchital, Freshwater, Ixhuatlán Southeast and Moloacán are in a state of emergency due to the vinyl chloride gas, a highly toxic substance, discharged into the atmosphere. Given these events, it is imperative to ask: Could the tragedy have been avoided? Who will pay the consequences for the population and the environment? How will this be done?

The explosion released extremely hazardous substances (persistent organic pollutants, dioxins) into the environment and it is necessary for the government of Veracruz and federal civil protection authorities to truthfully report the impact of the exposure to these chemicals. In 1991, an explosion occurred in the same facility and the authorities seem to have not learned their lesson: the management of toxic substances endangers local society.

The signatories of this letter demand that a detailed investigation be carried out by independent bodies, which discloses the causes of the explosion, who was responsibile and estimates fair sanctions for the culpable parties, especially if they belong to private initiative, as it would be unacceptable that the cost of criminal negligence is assumed by the State and paid for with money from the treasury.

It is also essential that those affected receive ongoing support, as the impact of the fire will produce long-term effects on the health of the inhabitants of Veracruz isthmus.

For all the above stated reasons, we demand that the Mexican State, in accordance with constitutional norms:

1) identify those responsible for the explosion of  Clorados III;

2) Determine, through the authorities of the Ministry of Labor, civil protection, environment and governance, which rules were breached that led to the explosion in the aforementioned petrochemical complex;

3) Recognize the impacts of persistent organic compounds (dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls) over all the inhabitants of Coatzacoalcos and the surrounding region;

4) Implement a process of decontamination of dioxins in the catchment area where toxic wastes emitted by the explosion were deposited;

5) Engage the health system to perform monitoring throughout the region affected by tühe proliferation of dioxins, furans, polychlorinated biphenyls, to identify the main affected areas and identify population groups exposed;

6) Restructure hospital conditions and expand recruitment of specialists in health and toxicology to attend, free of charge, to the population;

Undertake legal procedures to ensure the company assumes its obligation to financially compensate all the relatives of the workers of the companies and Pemex, and undertakesto repair the moral and financial damage suffered in the crash.


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