Politicians and business owners in Durango and Coahuila are blasting the decision by President López Obrador to cancel a Metrobús project in the Laguna metropolitan area after a show-of-hands vote at a rally Sunday in Gómez Palacio, Durango.
According to Gómez Palacio Mayor Leticia Herrera, at least 70% of those present at the rally had been brought in from southern Mexico. “It was orchestrated,” she charged.
The outcome was a shame, she added, because citizens had fought for the project.
Durango Government Secretary Adrián Alanís agreed that attendees who raised their hands in opposition were not from Durango.
She said most were from Torreón, Coahuila, and were supporters of López Obrador’s Morena party.
“The modernization of transportation has been cancelled,” said Alanís. “We respect institutions, and we’re not going to confront anyone, even though the highest institution [the presidency] doesn’t respect the other institutions.”
The Metrobús would have connected the Coahuila municipalities of Torreón and Matamoros with the neighboring Durango municipalities of Lerdo and Gómez Palacio in the Laguna metropolitan area, which straddles the two states.
The project, to be paid for by state and federal governments, was approved in 2014 and work on the Coahuila side is already 90% complete. But in Durango, the release of funds has been constantly delayed, and neither construction nor the purchase of new vehicles has started.
The Metrobús was opposed by bus drivers, who feared they would not be included in the new system.
In an op-ed published in the newspaper Reforma, Torreón journalist Javier Garza Ramos wrote that the cancellation of the Metrobús serves the interests of a “mafia” of bus drivers who provide substandard service.
“Either the president was manipulated by local authorities who are serving a mafia of bus drivers, or he is protecting that mafia himself,” wrote Garza.
Garza also wrote that allowing the Metrobús to be finished on the Coahuila side while cancelling it in Durango will further exacerbate the gap in development between the two parts of the metropolitan area.
President López Obrador has said frequently that public consultations are useful for determining whether public works projects should proceed because “the people are wise.”
Critics have said the format of the consultations conducted — including that which cancelled Mexico City’s new airport — are unrepresentative. Some also charge they are illegal.
The airport vote in particular was criticized because only selected municipalities were hand-picked to participate. Most had supported the Morena party in the July 2018 elections.
In Durango on Sunday, fewer than 3,000 people at a rally intended to distribute welfare funds voted on a public transportation project that was to serve 123,000 people in the state’s Laguna region.