Indigenous communities of the Mexican Yucatan Peninsula made it clear they do not want the so-called Tren Maya (Mayan Train) to pass through their territories and communities and don’t care if the results of the Nov. 24 and 25 national referendum approve of the massive tourist project.
In a joint statement several Yucatan community organizations including the Forces for the Defense of Territory, Network of Environmental Services Ya'ax Sot 'Ot' Yook'ol Kaab, Mayan Communities of Chenes Collective, and the Atasta Indigenous Council all told president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) that they, “disapprove and dislike (the construction and operation of the train) because it violates Indigenous rights enshrined in our Constitution.”
Signators of the communique that also include the Movement of Civil Resistance and Candelaria Campeche said they were disappointed with the referendum set up by the incoming president who ran on a pro-minority and anti-corruption platform.
“We expected that with the change of administration we, the Indigenous communities, would be visible to the federal (government) and acknowledged in the intent to move forward the Mayan train megaproject,” they lamented, adding: “It’s with displeasure we realized that the story has not changed with this new administration and the Indigenous peoples of Mexico will not have the justice they had hoped for.”
The major transport system that would connect the cities of Merida, Cancun, Tulum, Campeche, Escarcega, Candelaria y Palenque by rail was first proposed in 2012 by current and outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose approval rating is in the teens, but never got off the ground because of cost. A cost-benefit study of the project found the 1,500km train would cost around US$15 billion, making 17 stops throughout the Yucatan.
The organizations made up of mainly Indigenous activists from the and small-scale farmers say the train "has nothing to do with Mayan (cultures) and doesn’t benefit the Mayan population.” They stated: “We do not want to be a Cancun or Mayan Riviera where hotel chains, restaurants, and transportation companies are the only beneficiaries." Organizations warned the incoming government the project would damage the environment and "unravel the Indigenous communities … within the Peninsula."
In addition to their rejection of the train, organizations said they are “unpleased" that the government is asking those outside the region to decide what happens in their communities.
"With respect to the so-called consultation, we reject any result that it has either for or against (the train). It is not permissible for any person outside the Yucatan Peninsula to decide what can be done or not done in our territories, just as we will never try to decide what will be done with the property, rights, and possessions," of those outside the Yucatan.
The signing organizations and communities say they oppose the project that “already has a budget ... and even a start date" they were never consulted.
"The only information we have is what the newscasts have transmitted and the leaks that have reached us. Officially, there is no authority that has sat down to talk with us despite the fact that the physical work is intended to settle it in our territories,” read the joint statement.
It was announced Nov. 12 that a ribbon cutting ceremony will take place for the first phase of the train in Palenque, Chiapas on Dec. 16.
The communities emphasize that they are not opposed to progress, but that the megaproject will not benefit them or the region, but tourists and the already rich.
"It is not planned for us, the ordinary people. It is a tourist project that will only benefit the well-off and the foreigners,” not them who own the land.