Rolf Carle, the protagonist of the story, makes repeated requests for a pump to drain the water that surrounds Azucena, a little girl trapped by a mudslide. But somehow, the pump never arrives. At least not on time.
Eva Luna, Rolf's girlfriend and the story's narrator, eventually manages to obtain a pump. But on the morning when it's due to be shipped to the site of the mudslide, Azucena loses her fight for life in front of the world's television cameras.
The pump could well have saved Azucena's life, but because it never arrived on time, we will never know for sure. In any case, those in power never showed the necessary level of urgency in getting the pump to the little girl. Despite repeated promises, even from the president himself, the pump wasn't delivered on time.
What this whole sorry saga illustrates is the double-edged nature of technology. It can do great things for humanity, but only if it's deployed properly by those who have the power. In other words, we can have all the technological innovations in the world, but in the event, they are completely worthless if those in authority are unwilling or unable to use them for the public good.