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Mexican govt denies Maya train suspension

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Mexican govt denies Maya train suspension

An indigenous group in Mexico claims to have obtained a temporary suspension of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) US$6.7bn Maya train - which officials deny.

Members of the Calakmul community in Quintana Roo state and the Xpujil in Campeche state, where two of the train's seven stretches will be built, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that a state court granted a temporary restriction on the 1,440km freight and passenger rail line.

But after the conference in Campeche state, national tourism board Fonatur, which is in charge of AMLO’s signature infrastructure project, denied the existence of such a suspension.

Last week, Fonatur director Rogelio Jiménez Pons announced that the board plans to begin construction for the Maya train on April 30, and that at least 85 companies from different countries have shown interest in participating in one of the seven tenders for the project.

Inauguration of the US$6.7bn freight and passenger railway has been scheduled for 2024.

In December, AMLO carried out a second public consultation in the states the rail will cross – Tabasco, Quintana Roo, Chiapas, Yucatán and Campeche – to ensure residents' support.

The rail line was overwhelmingly approved, the government said. 

PROJECT SUSPENDED?

According to Fonatur, an appeal against the project was filed on January 6 by one representative of the indigenous group, Ernesto Martínez Jiménez. The group claims the second public consultation violated the indigenous peoples’ rights.

Fonatur shared a link to the government’s judicial transparency site CJF to prove the group's request to suspend the railway project was “denied” on January 14.

However, it is uncertain whether the indigenous group pursued a second appeal or the court ruled in its favor recently.

Nevertheless, Fonatur and two other involved agencies said they have not been notified of any court decision.

Elisa Cruz Rueda, the attorney representing the group, said the federal government failed to inform the communities in time about the consultation and their right to vote was, therefore, ignored.

“A community that does not have enough information on those projects or megaprojects that will affect its territory is not in a position to make decisions,” she said, adding that the consultation process also violated international standards. 

Martínez, who filed the appeal, said that the group is not categorically against the megaproject nor the economic development of the country.

Ironically, AMLO opted for a second public consultation to avoid possible appeals that would halt the project – as happened with the Felipe Ángeles international airport (AISL) in Mexico state’s Santa Lucía military base. But now indigenous groups are using the public consultation against the train.

The indigenous leaders also called other groups to file more appeals against the ambitious rail line that is expected to transport 325,000 passengers and 69,000t of cargo a day and could generate revenues of around 353bn pesos.

In the case of the Santa Lucía airport, which was halted for almost three months due to appeals filed by private citizens and business associations, the government used the national security argument to resume construction.

However, unlike AISL, which is overseen by defense ministry Sedena, the Maya train is under the management of the tourism board so the national security argument would not hold.

Photo credit: Fonatur

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