The Maya Train is President López Obrador's signature infrastructure project. The Maya Train is President López Obrador's signature infrastructure project.

Ruling in favor of indigenous communities halts work on Maya Train

Indigenous groups claim the new railroad will harm the environment and threaten their way of life

A court in Campeche has upheld an injunction granted to two indigenous communities in January that prevents the federal government from starting any new work on the Maya Train project.

The First Collegiate Tribunal of the 31st Circuit ruled that the provisional suspension order granted to two communities in the municipality of Calakmul, Campeche, does not have an adverse effect on public order or social interest, as the plaintiffs – the office of President López Obrador and the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur) – argued.

The provisional suspension order prevents the government from commencing any new construction work on the US $7.5-billion railroad that will link cities and towns in the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas, but it doesn’t stop it from carrying out rehabilitation or maintenance on existing stretches of track.

It also doesn’t prevent the government from seeking companies to work on the project via a tendering process nor does it stop it from making applications for environmental permits.

The newspaper Milenio reported that Campeche-based Judge Grissel Rodríguez Febles must now decide whether or not to grant the Calakmul communities a definitive suspension order against the Maya Train, which the government would be required to have overturned by a court before it could commence any new work.

Rogelio Jiménez Pons, head of Fonatur, which is managing the project, said in late January that the first phase of construction was expected to begin in April or May.

However, the government faces opposition from many indigenous communities and groups that reject the legitimacy of a government consultation process on the project and a vote that found over 92% support for it. They argue that construction of the new railroad will damage the environment and threaten their way of life, a claim the government rejects.

The viewpoint of the project’s opponents was supported by the Campeche collegiate court in its written decision to uphold the provisional suspension order.

“This court believes that … the project could produce changes to the Earth, forests, flora, fauna, natural resources, environment, biodiversity [and] water” in areas where indigenous people live, the court said, noting also that people’s health could be affected.

Those changes would cause “irreparable damage” to those communities and therefore their interests must be carefully protected, it concluded.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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