Coronavirus
An artist's conception of the Maya Train station in Palenque, Chiapas. An artist's conception of the Maya Train station in Palenque, Chiapas.

Judge orders definitive suspension of train construction due to virus

The suspension remains in effect while there is a coronavirus emergency

A federal judge has once again ordered the suspension of the Maya Train project in Palenque, Chiapas, due to coronavirus concerns.

Lucía Anaya Ruiz, a judge in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, issued a definitive suspension order to Mayan residents of the Chiapas municipalities of Palenque, Ocosingo and Salto del Agua.

One of the stations on the 1,500-kilometer railroad will be located in Palenque, a city best known for its archaeological site of the same name, but tracks won’t run through the other two municipalities where the plaintiffs live.

In granting the suspension order, Anaya said the deployment of a large number of construction workers to Palenque could place local residents at risk of being infected with the coronavirus.

While the virus remains a threat, the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur), which is managing the Maya Train project, is only permitted to carry out maintenance work on existing tracks in Palenque, the judge ruled.

Chiapas, where there are currently 357 active Covid-19 cases, was allocated a “red light” on the federal government’s most recent stoplight map to assess the risk of coronavirus infection, meaning that most nonessential activities remain suspended.

Construction is now considered an essential activity across Mexico but the judge deemed that fact insufficient to allow the Maya Train project to proceed in Palenque.

Anaya last month issued a provisional suspension order that stopped the project in Palenque due to coronavirus concerns but it was revoked in late May by judges who noted that construction as well as mining and the manufacture of transportation equipment were officially declared essential activities on May 13.

An administrative court will also review the definitive suspension order but a decision on its validity is expected to take weeks.

In the meantime, Fonatur mustn’t allow the companies awarded the contract for the section of track between Palenque and Escárcega, Campeche – Portugal’s Mota-Engil and the majority state-owned China Communications Construction Company – to complete any construction work in the former municipality.

Fonatur appeared unconcerned about the ruling, noting that no new construction work is underway in Palenque and that it doesn’t prevent maintenance from being carried out on existing tracks.

It also highlighted that the suspension order will only remain in effect while Covid-19 remains a threat to people’s health.

Construction on some other sections of the US $8-billion rail project was officially inaugurated by President López Obrador at the start of June.

He pledged that the project will be finished by October 2022 and create more than 200,000 jobs by the end of 2021.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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