MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -- The Mexican Red Cross, regarded as one of
the few bastions of moral integrity in Mexican public life, has slipped from its
pedestal amid allegations of corruption from high-level officials who resigned
Plunging the organization into a deep crisis, nine directors of the charity
stepped down Wednesday, alleging "abuse of power" and financial
irregularities under the organization's president Jose Barroso.
"There are a lot of irregularities which have not been explained," the
Mexico City director of the Mexican Red Cross, Salvador Padilla, told
Radio Red on Thursday morning.
"We resigned in order to pressure officials into investigating these
irregularities," he said.
Mexico fared poorly in the latest analysis of corruption by Germany-based
watchdog Transparency International, coming in 55th, level with Ghana, the
Philippines and Senegal.
Though wary of corrupt officialdom in general, ordinary Mexicans rarely
questioned the trustworthiness of the local Red Cross. The bulk of donations
for humanitarian relief efforts flow through its coffers, such as for the
devastating floods this month in the impoverished, southern state of Chiapas.
Barroso's office brushed off the significance of the mass walkout, saying
most of the officials who resigned had come to the ends of their terms
"The people who resigned will continue to collaborate with the Red Cross
members of its national council," it said in a statement.
Barroso was out of town and could not be contacted, his aides said.
Outgoing Mexico City Red Cross head Padilla said he and the other
directors wanted Barroso to explain some "obscure" financial transactions.
Among them, he mentioned a $300,000 donation from the United States for
relief efforts after Hurricane Pauline ripped through the Pacific Coast resort
of Acapulco last October, killing up to 400 people.
Padilla said no one had been able to explain where the money went or how
it was spent.
The mass resignation came two days after President Ernesto Zedillo
criticized the Red Cross for failing to get aid to flood victims in Chiapas,
even though hundreds of tons of clothes, food and water had been collected
around the country.
"I have not seen a kilo of this aid," Zedillo charged.
Barroso immediately retorted by saying the president had no right to
reproach his organization.
He said the reason Zedillo had not seen any Red Cross supplies was that
could fly by helicopter into areas cut off by floodwaters but the Red Cross
and its relief packages could not, because it did not have the support of the
Barroso has clashed with Zedillo's administration before. Officials were
furious when the Red Cross said at least 400 people had died in Hurricane
Pauline while the government, maintained the death toll was just 200.
Mexican governments traditionally play down the extent of disasters.
ration before. Officials were furious when the Red Cross said at least
people had died in Hurricane Pauline while the government, maintained the
death toll was just 200. Mexican governments traditionally play down the
extent of disasters.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.