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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
In quake film, Mexican actor Bichir sees broken politics
By Jennifer GONZALEZ COVARRUBIAS
Mexico City (AFP) Sept 24, 2016


Italy PM vows to restore quake towns to former glory
Rome (AFP) Sept 23, 2016 - Picturesque hamlets devastated by Italy's deadly earthquake will be restored to their former glory, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Friday, a month after the disaster which claimed nearly 300 lives.

"Our country will rebuild the areas hit by the quake so they are as beautiful, more beautiful than before," he told a press conference, as the civil protection agency rushed to move the last 2,500 or so homeless out of camps and into houses.

"It will be a reconstruction done without big promises, without turning it into a spectacle, without special effects," he said.

The quake, which had a magnitude of 6.0 to 6.2, hit central Italy in the early hours of August 24, devastating villages in the Lazio, Marches, Umbria and Abruzzo regions and causing at least four billion euros ($4.48 billion) worth of damage, Renzi said.

Aftershocks -- including one this week which measured over 4.0 on the Richter scale -- have spooked shell-shocked residents living in tent encampments in the mountainous region, with many taking up the offer of beds in hotels along the coast.

"Our priority is to shut the tent camps. We hope it will happen as soon as possible, many will be leaving as early as this weekend," said Fabrizio Curcio, head of the civil protection agency.

Of the 9,000 sites inspected by the agency in the affected area, including 60 schools, over 45 percent of have been declared fit for use.

- Police probe school's reconstruction -

The tent camps will be replaced within the next seven months with wooden houses as reconstruction work on the hamlets and towns is carried out, while local businesses will re-open where possible in containers, he said.

Rome's financial police said Friday it had submitted its probe into the collapse of the Romolo Capranica elementary school in Amatrice -- which was supposed to have been upgraded to modern anti-quake norms -- to the National Anti-corruption Authority.

"You do not joke when schools are at stake, I speak as a father rather than a prime minister," Renzi said, calling on Italy's mayors to invest in shoring-up sites of learning at risk across the country.

Reconstruction commissioner Vasco Errani pledged to rebuild the affected areas "so that with another 6.0 quake, buildings do not collapse and the citizens of those communities no longer risk their lives".

Following previous reconstruction scandals which saw funds diverted into corrupt pockets, he said the 15 million euros donated so far would be accounted for down to the last cent on a public database under the mantra "legality, transparency".

In his latest film, Mexican actor Demian Bichir plays a man trapped in the rubble after a major earthquake, an ordeal he sees as a symbol of his country's political mess.

Ahead of Friday's premiere of "7:19" in Mexico, Bichir listed his country's ills in an interview with AFP, from corruption to a disappointing economy and the much-maligned visit of the US "clown" Donald Trump.

The film depicts a government worker stuck under a collapsed building during the earthquake that devastated Mexico City on September 19, 1985, killing thousands of people.

"I was very interested in the metaphor of this building, which is our country, and how it collapses on us because it was built with bad cement, like the corruption that has allowed construction on top of mud," Bichir said.

Directed by Jorge Michel Grau, the movie was filmed in just four weeks in a set filled with heavy material made to look like rubble, giving the actors little room to move, like real quake victims.

Mexicans, he said, "have suffered all kinds of earthquakes," from social to economic shocks.

- Trump-Pena Nieto movie? -

The 53-year-old actor, who played a Mexican gunman named Bob in Quentin Tarantino's blood-soaked western "The Hateful Eight," slammed Mexico's "cynical" political class.

He pointed to a recent symbolic, financial earthquake this week, when the national currency fell to a historic 20 pesos per dollar.

But there was one political temblor that has angered Bichir: President Enrique Pena Nieto's decision to meet with Trump at his presidential residence on August 31.

Mexicans were outraged by Pena Nieto's failure to forcefully condemn the Republican presidential candidate during a joint news conference.

The Republican billionaire has called Mexican migrants "rapists" and wants Mexico to pay for a massive border wall.

"We still have to do the film in which the person who represents the interests of the country can't and doesn't have the courage to tell the clown with red hair... 'I'm inviting you to offer an apology,'" Bichir said.

"We must do this film. I would do it with pleasure," said Bichir, who starred as a Mexican policeman working with a US detective to solve murders at the US-Mexico border in the TV show "The Bridge."

Taking a more serious tone, Bichir said the president, whose popularity has sunk, lost "an extraordinary opportunity to confront him, to demand an apology."

- Giving migrants a face -

Bichir, who lives in Los Angeles, serves as a celebrity ambassador for immigrants' rights at the non-profit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his role as a Mexican immigrant trying to keep his son out of trouble in the 2011 film "A Better Life."

The Mexico City-born actor warns that, if Trump wins the presidency in the November 8 election, the 11 million migrants estimated to be living illegally in the United States would lose a chance to have "a face" through legislation giving them a path to legal status.

But rival Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, he said, is "no guarantee either" that their situation would change for the better.


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Previous Report
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Italy PM vows to restore quake towns to former glory
Rome (AFP) Sept 23, 2016
Picturesque hamlets devastated by Italy's deadly earthquake will be restored to their former glory, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said Friday, a month after the disaster which claimed nearly 300 lives. "Our country will rebuild the areas hit by the quake so they are as beautiful, more beautiful than before," he told a press conference, as the civil protection agency rushed to move the last 2,5 ... read more


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