The construction of a stretch of the Maya Train railroad in Quintana Roo and Campeche is in doubt due to the opposition of local landowners, President López Obrador said Monday.
The president told his morning news conference that the section between Chetumal, Quintana Roo, and Xpujil, Campeche, might not be built if an agreement can’t be reached with the leaders of five ejidos, or communal parcels of land.
“Along the stretch from Xpujil to Chetumal, there are five ejidos where the leaders, not the campesinos … don’t want the train to pass,” López Obrador said.
“Or they do want it, but they’re conditioning [construction of the railroad] on the Ministry of Communications and Transportation paying them compensation from when the Escárcega-Chetumal highway was built,” he said.
The president raised doubts about their claim because the highway was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
“It’s a claim from more than 50 years ago, half a century ago. We’ll have to see whether the ejidos were already established then,” López Obrador said. “We have to see whether [the ejido leaders] are right.”
López Obrador indicated that the government wouldn’t meet the ejido leaders’ demand if it determined their claim wasn’t valid.
“The maxim that a problem that is resolved with money isn’t a problem used to prevail … because the budget wasn’t considered money of the people, it was thought to be the government’s money. No, the budget is the people’s money, and it’s sacred money that has to be looked after,” Lopez Obrador said. “ None of this ‘you’re not going through here if you don’t give me this much,’ that can’t be done, that’s corruption, let it be clear.”
López Obrador questioned the morality of the ejido leaders, asserting that they’re attempting to personally profit from the situation.
“It’s not … our adversaries [causing the problem] here; it’s another kind of thing. It’s part of the entrenched corruption, and we have to put an end to it, we have to banish corruption,” he said.
López Obrador also said that if compensation is owed due to the construction of the highway it will be paid accordingly but not to the ejido leaders. The money could be used to make improvements to the five parcels of land in question, he said.
If an agreement isn’t reached and blockades that impede construction are erected, there will be no railroad between Xpujil and Chetumal, López Obrador bluntly declared.
“It will be known who was responsible for stopping the project; it’s as clear as that,” he added.
Earlier in his press conference, the president noted that the government has overcome other challenges to the US $10 billion railroad, which will link cities and towns in five southeastern states and is slated to open in 2023.
“We already freed up about 1,000 kilomters, it’s known as right of way,” López Obrador said.
“We have already freed up Palenque, Escárcega, Campeche, Mérida, Cancún, Tulum – we already resolved [problems with] the most difficult stretch, the Cancún-Tulum stretch, where they wanted to strike us out because there are a lot of interests,” he said.
There was – and is – significant opposition to the Cancún-Tulum stretch of the railroad because the government’s decision earlier this year to reroute it means that large swaths of Mayan jungle have to be cut down.
Opponents of the project – dubbed pseudoenvironmentalists by the president – also say that the the tourism, commuter and freight railroad’s construction and operation poses risks to wildlife, the Yucatán Peninsula’s subterranean waterways and the area’s many archaeological assets.
Mexico News Daily