PBI-Mexico supports the work of CEMDA smeared by the Mexican president for their opposition to the Mayan Train megaproject

Published by Brent Patterson on

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On August 28, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project tweeted: “We support the legitimate work of @CEMDA and it seems to us essential that the Mexican authorities recognize the fundamental work of human rights defenders.”

The Associated Press reports: “Mexico’s president launched a blistering attack on several environmentalist groups Friday, suggesting they were being paid by foreign foundations to oppose his controversial train project in the Yucatan peninsula.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated: “I have received information that all of these supposedly independent non-governmental, so-called civic groups are getting money, sometimes from abroad, to oppose the construction of the Maya Train.”

López Obrador added: “[They are] disguising themselves for money as environmentalists, disguising themselves as human rights defenders for money as well, when in the end it is a struggle for political and economic power.”

The Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) has tweeted in response: “We regret once again that the Mexican State criminalizes the work of civil society organizations.”

It adds: “We demand a public apology for the attacks and defamation we have been subjected to by the president.”

The Mayan Train (Tren Maya) refers to a megaproject that would link Mayan archaeological sites in five states (Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and the Yucatán) by rail. The multibillion-dollar project would involve the building of 1,500 kilometres of railroad track, with nearly one-third of it through tropical forests.

Significantly, the megaproject does not have the free, prior and informed consent of impacted Indigenous communities.

Lopez Obrador became the President of Mexico in December 2018.

In January 2019, PBI-Mexico commented: “The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned about AMLO’s position on the rights of indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments.”

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and AMLO met last month, the statement on their meeting noted: “The Prime Minister and the President agreed that the recent entry into force of the new NAFTA [on July 1, 2020] would strengthen the deep economic ties and longstanding friendship between Canada and Mexico, and advance social as well as economic development in both countries.”

With respect to Indigenous rights, the text of NAFTA states: “The Parties recognize that the environment plays an important role in the economic, social and cultural well-being of Indigenous peoples and local communities, and acknowledge the importance of engaging with such groups in the long-term conservation of our environment.”

This, unfortunately, is not a recognition of the right to free, prior and informed consent as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It has also previously been reported that Montreal-based manufacturer Bombardier Inc., the Quebec City-based pension plan La Caisse dé depot et placement du Québec, and the Toronto-based bank Scotiabank had expressed interest in the Mayan Train.

Earlier this month, it was reported that a Canadian company was interested in the development and construction of a light railway network in the state of Quintana Roo that would feed passengers to the Mayan Train line.

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