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Eugenio Derbez, Natalia Lafourcade and Kate del Castillo are among the artists Eugenio Derbez, Natalia Lafourcade and Kate del Castillo are among the artists who have criticized section 5 of the train project.

AMLO cancels Maya Train talks with project’s opponents; plays baseball instead

'Government doesn't want to confront the truth'

President López Obrador on Sunday canceled a scheduled meeting with opponents of the Quintana Roo section of the Maya Train project, angering those who were scheduled to meet him.

The president’s office said the meeting planned for Monday with members of the #SelvameDelTren collective had been suspended because several of the invitees publicly announced they wouldn’t attend.

The collective – whose name means “save the jungle from the train” or “save me and the jungle from the train” – rejected the claim, saying that only one of its supporters had pulled out of the meeting.

Among those slated to attend were actor Jero Medina, Café Tacvba frontman Rubén Albarrán, biologist and speleologist Roberto Rojo and ecologist Rodrigo Medellín.

In light of the cancellation of the meeting, the president’s office invited the #SelvameDelTrain members to visit Quintana Roo and speak with residents of the indigenous communities located along the Cancún-Tulum section of the 1,500-kilometer railroad.

“In that way you will find out that the people were informed and consulted,” the office said in a statement.

“Along the entire route of the Maya Train, people know about the project and every community has been consulted. … The environment and archaeological assets are being protected while its construction is being carried out and cenotes [natural sinkholes], subterranean rivers and caves won’t be affected,” it said.

The #SelvameDelTrain activists and others argue that the construction and operation of section 5 of the US $10 billion railroad will have an irreversible adverse impact on the environment. Swathes of jungle have already been cleared to make way for the route, which was moved inland after the Playa del Carmen business community complained about the construction of the railroad through the center of that city.

Activists have also denounced the commencement of work before the completion of environmental studies. A judge recently issued a provisional suspension order against section 5 due to to environmental concerns and the absence of environmental permits. A ruling on a definitive suspension order is set to be made next month.

On its official social media accounts, the #SelvameDelTrain collective republished the government’s statement with annotated rebuttals. Only actor Eugenio Derbez – who wasn’t on a list of proposed guests – announced he wouldn’t attend the meeting with López Obrador, it said, adding that “the rest of us are here.”

In response to the invitation to visit Quintana Roo, the collective said that the “vast majority” of its members are from that part of the country or have already been there.

“And we assure you that not everybody was consulted … and there is a vast majority who don’t agree [with the project],” it said.

“We made the invitation to you to walk in the jungle with us, see the devastation and understand why the vast majority doesn’t agree,” the collective told López Obrador.

It also said that construction of section 5 would “devastate” subterranean rivers and that operation of the train would generate “urbanization and an unsustainable environmental impact, … altering one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.”

“… It’s a shame that the president has rejected the dialogue he offered us. This shows that they don’t have the environmental impact studies that the law demands and that we’re right in our concern about the damage that will be caused to the jungle and the Mayan aquifer.”

Arturo Islas, a television host, actor and environmentalist who was one of those scheduled to meet with López Obrador, criticized the cancellation of the meeting on his Twitter account.

“It’s not OK to continue evading and manipulating information, regrettable attitude” he wrote after rejecting the claim that several #SelvameDelTrain activists had pulled out of the meeting.

Roberto Rojo, the biologist and speleologist, was about to board a flight to Mexico City from Cancún when he found out the meeting had been canceled. He said the justification for the cancellation was “a ridiculous excuse to avoid the meeting because they don’t want to confront the truth.”

“The president planned to speak only with the artists, who don’t have the scientific foundations we have,” Rojo told reporters outside the National Palace on Monday. “When he realized that the people coming weren’t just from the artistic union, the decision was taken to cancel the meeting,” he said.

López Obrador has labeled those opposed to the ambitious railroad project as “pseudo-environmentalists.”

Rojo countered that claim by saying, “the only way in which … [the government] could have resolved the doubts about us is with a face to face meeting.”

The president renewed his criticism Tuesday morning by accusing artists in the #SelvameDelTrain collective of not having a “social dimension or love for the people.”

“They are concerned about being successful but they turn their back on the humble, the poor,” he said before repeating the accusation that the train’s opponents are conservatives opposed to his government’s transformation of Mexico.

In lieu of Monday’s meeting, members of the collective protested outside the National Palace on Monday, while López Obrador – who has consistently denied that the railroad project will damage the environment and touted the economic benefits it will bring – took advantage of the opening up of his schedule by taking leave from the seat of executive power to participate in a game of baseball, his favorite sport.

With reports from El Universal and El País

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