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Route of the planned Maya train. Route of the planned Maya train.

Public opinion to be sought on Maya train project: López Obrador

Regardless of the vote, an inauguration ceremony will be held December 16

President-elect López Obrador announced Monday that he will hold a public consultation later this month on his proposal to build a railway on the Yucatán peninsula, although work on the project has been scheduled to start in December.

During a trip to Mérida, López Obrador said that three planned infrastructure projects – the Maya train, a new oil refinery in Tabasco and development of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec –  as well as 10 proposed social programs will be put to a public vote on November 24 and 25.

The incoming government held a public consultation late last month on the future of the new Mexico City International Airport in which 70% of participants voted to build two new runways at a México state air force base and upgrade the existing airport and that in Toluca rather than continuing the current project.

López Obrador subsequently announced that the will of the people would be respected and cancelled the new airport, which is around one-third complete.

Thousands of people marched in Mexico City Sunday to protest the decision.

After meeting Monday with the governors of the states through which the Maya train will run – Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo ­– the president-elect announced the new consultation.

“So that all our opponents, whom we respect very much, don’t have any excuse or concern, I inform you that on the 24th and 25th of this month we’re going to carry out a comprehensive citizens’ consultation to ask Mexicans, not just residents of the southeast but all Mexicans, their opinion about the Maya train project,” López Obrador said.

However, he also said he had agreed with the five governors to hold an inauguration ceremony for the project on December 16, adding that work would start the next day.

“With complete transparency and authenticity, I can tell you that I’m going to defend these projects,” López Obrador told reporters.

“In other words, it’s not going to be like the airport consultation in which I acted with impartiality. In the case of these projects . . . I’m going to defend them, regardless of what the people decide. Obviously, it’s just my opinion, that’s how I’m going to vote, but the citizens will decide,” he continued.

“I want to tell you that I’m in favor of the 10 programs because they are commitments I made in the campaign but . . . as our adversaries are very harsh [and] so that there is no doubt, we’re having a consultation.”

López Obrador explained that the consultation process would be exactly the same as that for the airport vote with polling stations to be set up in the same municipalities.

The leftist soon-to-be president also said that he had complete confidence in those organizing the vote.

Asked whether that confidence was a result of the vote being organized and funded by lawmakers of Morena – the party he leads – López Obrador responded “no,” explaining that his trust stemmed from them being “honest people.”

He also expressed confidence that the people of Mexico would back his train proposal to link cities including Cancún, Palenque, Mérida, Valladolid and Campeche.

“The truth is that I have polls and I’m very confident that the people are going to vote to build the Maya train, because it won’t hurt anyone. On the contrary, it will benefit a lot of people,” López Obrador said.

The president-elect added that there would be no 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.

The Maya Train project is expected to cost between 120 billion and 150 billion pesos (US $5.8 -$7.3 billion).

Among the proposed social programs on which citizens will be asked to express an opinion in the new public vote are increased pensions for seniors and scholarships for students.

López Obrador will be sworn in as president just six days after the consultation concludes.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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