Drought Victims Recieve $2.6 Billion

Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday announced a 2.6-billion-dollar program to help victims of a record drought, including food and water handouts, as rural victims protested in the capital.

The “unprecedented sum would attend to a catastrophic situation in Mexico,” Calderon said during a public act. The aim “is that no family is without water or food due to this drought.”

Immediate measures included the delivery of 4,000 water trucks to affected areas, mainly in the north of the country, and the distribution of corn.

The program would receive almost 34 billion pesos (2.6 billion dollars), while a presidential decree would lift bureaucratic obstacles to speed up aid distribution, Calderon said.

Tens of thousands of people have been affected by the drought — the worst in 70 years in some areas — particularly in northern Durango state and the mountainous Tarahumara region in the northern border state of Chihuahua.

Hundreds of farmers marched to Mexico City this week to draw attention to the drought that has ravaged their crops.

Officials estimate that almost two million hectares (500,000 acres) have been destroyed and tens of thousands of heads of cattle have died.

The next rainy season usually starts around May.