Wednesday, February 21, 2024

‘Nobody asked us:’ indigenous communities say no to Maya train

Indigenous communities on the Yucatán peninsula have rejected president-elect López Obrador’s Maya train project and declared that nobody has asked their opinion about it.

In a statement directed to the soon-to-be president, a range of groups representing Mayan communities declared that “no person outside the Yucatán peninsula” has the right “to decide what can or can’t be done” in their territories without first consulting them.

“Let it be known from today that we totally reject the Maya train megaproject,” the statement said.

The groups called on López Obrador not to grant approval for the project or begin a tendering process for its construction – either before or after he takes office on December 1 – without first obtaining the consent of the indigenous people living in the communities through which the railway will pass.

The president-elect announced Monday that he will hold a public consultation later this month on the railway that would link cities in the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas.

However, the joint statement made it clear that the indigenous communities don’t support the November 24/25 vote.

“With respect to the consultation, we reject . . . any result it has whether in favor or against,” the groups said.

Prior to López Obrador announcing the train’s route, its estimated cost and even the date construction will start, nobody discussed the project with the communities that will be affected, the indigenous groups charged.

“The only information we have is what the newscasts have transmitted . . . No authority has sat down to talk to us despite the fact that the infrastructure project will be located in our territories . . . Everything has occurred behind our backs . . . We would like any intended decision [on the project] to be made in the presence of our representatives,” the statement said.

“. . . We hoped that with the change of administration that we, the indigenous communities, would be visible to the federal government and that it would reconsider the manner in which it attempts to start the Maya train megaproject but with displeasure we realized that in this new administration history won’t change and that the justice that was expected will not come to the indigenous peoples of Mexico.”

The groups also said they saw little benefit to the communities that will bear the burden of construction of the railway.

“It’s not planned for us, the common people. It’s a tourism project that will only benefit the wealthy and foreigners. We, the owners of the land, will only see the train pass by because there will be no stations in the majority of our towns . . . Our communities will only see the destructive part of the project,” the statement said.

The indigenous groups also challenged the name of the proposed train, declaring that “there’s nothing Mayan about it.”

They said they are prepared to take “the actions that are necessary” to defend their rights and demanded that an environmental impact assessment be completed by an organization that is independent of the government and any company that has an economic interest in the project.

López Obrador said Monday that there would be no net negative environmental impact on the region, which is full of jungle, wetlands, wildlife reserves and archaeological sites, explaining that a simultaneous project to plant trees across 100,000 hectares in southern Mexico would be undertaken.

“I’m very confident that the people are going to vote to build the Maya train, because it won’t hurt anyone,” he said. “On the contrary, it will benefit a lot of people.”

An inauguration ceremony for the project will be held on December 16 and work will start the next day, López Obrador said.

Source: Animal Político (sp) 

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