After a popular consultation in which Mexicans decided to cancel the new international airport in Texcoco, President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his transition team are calling for another process on November 24 and 25 to consult the people about key development projects.
Lopez Obrador announced the people of Mexico will be consulted over the controversial “Maya Train,” a refinery, an economic passage going through the Tehuantepec Isthmus and ten social programs, including aid for the elderly.
But this time the president-elect won’t adopt a “neutral” position, as he says he did about the New International Airport of Mexico City (NAICM), because the aforementioned projects were campaign promises. Instead, he will defend them and argue in their favor.
“It won’t be like the consultation in the airport’s case, in which I was impartial,” said Lopez Obrador. “In the case of these 10 projects that will be consulted, I will defend them. Regardless of what the people decide, it’s only my opinion and it will be my vote. Citizens will decide.”
El 24 y 25 de noviembre habrá consulta sobre construcción del Tren Maya, refinería, desarrollo del Istmo y programas sociales. Proyecto por proyecto en la misma boleta. En esto sí me pronuncio a favor porque lo ofrecí en campaña; lo argumentaré en los medios. pic.twitter.com/SCFQSn8qFM— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) 13 de noviembre de 2018
Lopez Obrador published a promotional video for the train, in which the words “progress” and “development” are highlighted along with the phrase “a train moved by respect for nature.”
Just ten days before the consultation takes place, the transitional team launched the Maya Train's internet portal in which, as announced, the people will be informed about the project’s advantages.
The site explains the project includes the rehabilitation of already existing tracks and local consultations to indigenous peoples and experts. It will transport both passengers, local and tourists, and cargo trains through 1,525 kilometers and 15 stations.
Josefa Gonzalez Blanco, who will head the Environment and Natural Resources Secretary when Lopez Obrador is sworn in as president, explained that two types of consultations will be followed: one for Mexicans in general and another on the affected indigenous people, the latter following the established international standards to which Mexico abides.
“We want to listen to the citizens to take them into account. We don’t want to impose,” said Gonzalez.
Voting stations will be on the same spots as the previous consultation in which 70 percent chose to cancel the airport in Texcoco.
In case the train project is accepted, construction will start on December 16, including wildlife crossings, and the transition team has reportedly demanded roughly US$300 million from next year’s budget to start it. In case the vote is against, existing tracks will be repaired instead.
Lopez Obrador recently met with politicians in Merida, at the Yucatan Peninsula, to discuss the project. At the end of the meeting, the governor of Yucatan Mauricio Vila expressed his support for the train to the press.
“We believe in it and we know it will be a project that will promote development and give the southeast what has been denied in a long time,” said Vila.
It was also announced that “prehispanic ceremonies” will be held at seven points the train will pass through.
“We have the intention to do ceremonies with indigenous peoples in seven spots of the five States,” said Jimenez-Prons, the future head of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism. “Indigenous groups, Mayan groups, to carry out a ceremony respectful of Earth, according to their traditions, to start the works.”
After the consultation over the airport concluded and voters decided to cancel it, a sector of Mexican society expressed their rejection toward the process claiming it had been illegal and tricked to favor the president-elect. Thousands marched on Sunday to demand the continuation of the project in Texcoco, mixing signs declaring Lopez Obrador a dictator and others calling the caravan of Central American immigrants “undesirable.”
This time the opposition to the consultation is also rising, as important industrial and commercial organizations such as Coparmex have declared a well-designed project doesn’t need any consultation.
Lopez Obrador expressed his approval for the demonstration, defending the right to freedom of speech.
“When I was in the opposition I marched and demonstrated and nobody would silence me,” said Lopez Obrador about the march in favor of the airport. “It’s the same. All Mexicans have a right to demonstrate.”