March 11, 2016
A recording reveals the official encouraging Mexicans to lie about whether they have enough food to eat.
A Mexican official urged recipients of anti-poverty assistance to indicate on surveys that they had not suffered hunger in recent months, part of an apparent attempt to cover up government failings, an audio recording obtained by local media reveals.
Leobardo Hernandez, the head of social programs for Piedras Negras, a city in the impoverished northern state of Coahuila, on Tuesday instructed beneficiaries of the “Prospera” program to deny going hungry when responding to surveys conducted by the Social Development Secretariat and the National Statistics Institute, or INEGI.
In his address, Hernandez prepped a packed auditorium on how to respond to different survey questions they would face, according to the recording, posted online Friday.
“Have you gone hungry over the past three months?” he asked, reading out the question. “No!” those in attendance respond in unison.
“Have any of your elderly relatives gone hungry?” he asked. “No!” they answer.
“Have you sometimes had to go without breakfast, lunch or dinner?” he asked. “No!” they shout.
After the drill-like exercise, the official then repeats the same questions and tells the audience that answering them truthully — saying they had suffered from hunger — would signal that the “Prospera” scheme (formerly known as “Oportunidades”) had been ineffectual.
Economically challenged residents of Piedras Negras have been receiving cash payments from the government, and the surveys the INEGI and the Social Development Secretariat gauge if the benefits are still needed.
Mexico’s poverty rate increased by 0.7 percent between 2012 and 2014, with 46.2 percent of the population now living below the official line, which equates to roughly 55.3 million people, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy, said last year.
Those living in extreme poverty, however, fell from 11.5 million to 11.4 million during that same period, or from 9.8 percent of the total population to 9.5 percent.