Protests continue against the Maya Train in Mexico

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: “Let’s protect the Mayan jungle” .Greenpeace Mexico protest against the Maya Train, March 28, 2022.

The Associated Press reports: “Mexico’s ambitious Maya Train project is supposed to bring development to the Yucatan Peninsula, but along the country’s Caribbean coast it is threatening the Indigenous Maya people it was named for and dividing communities it was meant to help.”

The article further highlights:

It is one of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s signature projects and has drawn objections from environmentalists, archaeologists and cave divers, who have held protests to block backhoes from tearing down trees and scraping clean the thin layer of soil.

As with his other signature projects, including a new airport in the capital and a massive new oil refinery on the gulf, the president exempted the train from environmental impact studies and last month invoked national security powers to forge ahead, overriding court injunctions.

For the largely Maya inhabitants of the village of Vida y Esperanza – a clutch of about 300 people and 70 houses whose name means “Life and Hope” – the train is going to run right by their doors. They fear it will pollute the caves that supply them with water, endanger their children and cut off their access to the outside world.

When marines showed up last month to start cutting down trees in preparation for the train on the edge of the village, residents who hadn’t been paid for their expropriated land stopped them from working.

Photo: Greenpeace protest, July 18, 2022.

The route

Mongabay has reported: “The Tren Maya line is supposed to run 1,525 kilometers (948 miles) across Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Tabasco, Campeche and Chiapas, states with large Indigenous populations and high rates of biodiversity.”

Canadian connections

Vancouver-based Renaissance Oil Corp., Regina-based Sask Energy

El Pais has reported: “It is estimated that 70% of the revenues will result from the transport of cargo, largely from fuels (to serve the six gas pipelines in the southeast of the country) and products of the region’s thriving agribusiness, such as soybeans or pork.”

The Mexico City-based Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) has also published The train of the elites that lists the companies and energy projects that would benefit from this megaproject.

Their report highlights (on page 34): “The main source of income for the Mayan Train will be the transportation of fuels, it seems clear that the Mayan Train will function as a platform infrastructure for the energy sector.”

It then notes: “If this is consolidated, the construction of the train will favor extractive energy projects in the region that have led to environmental and social conflicts and are largely owned by companies with Spanish, Canadian and US capital.”

The chart below from the PODER report notes Vancouver-based Renaissance Oil Corp. and Regina-based provincial Crown corporation Sask Energy Incorporated.

Quebec City-based Caisse de Dépôt

In July 2019, Milenio also reported: “Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said there are several Canadian companies interested in investing in the Mayan Train. … As for pension funds, Ebrard mentioned La Caisse dé depot a Quebec company that currently has an investment in Mexico of two billion dollars.”

The PODER report further explains (on page 19): “In recent years [Empresas ICA S.A.B. de C.V.] has gone through a strong financial crisis that has led it to accept foreign capital, as happened in 2015 with the signing of an association agreement with Canadian fund manager Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec (“CDPQ”). The agreement establishes the formation of a business which initially involves four highway concessions between which is the Mayab Consortium, S.A. of C.V. (“Mayab”), which has the concession of the Mayab highway and through which the Mayan Train track.”

Montreal-based Bombardier Inc.

And Reuters has reported: “A consortium led by a unit of [Montreal-based] Bombardier Inc. won a bid for the rolling stock and rail systems for Mexico’s flagship ‘Mayan Train’ infrastructure project, the government said on Wednesday [May 26, 2021].”

Toronto-based Scotiabank

The Toronto-based Scotiabank has also been linked to the megaproject when it denied a media report that it had withdrawn from it, stating: “[Scotiabank] carefully analyzes the opportunities in public and private projects that are presented exclusively according to business criteria. This process in the project in question continues its course.”

Other Canadian companies?

In February 2020, EFE reported: “The director of the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur), Rogelio Jiménez Pons, explained at the end of January the details of the tenders and indicated that there was interest from 85 companies. There were 65 national and 20 international from Spain, Canada, Portugal, Brazil and China.”

PBI accompaniment

The Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project has commented: “The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned about [Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’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.”

Many organizations have signed this open letter that states the consultation of Indigenous peoples on this megaproject did not meet international standards.

Among the groups that signed that letter are the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y Agua Morelos, Puebla y Tlaxcala; Centro Diocesano para los Derechos Humanos “Fray Juan de Larios”, A.C.; Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC); and Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña, Tlachinollan, A. C.

The Maya Train is expected to be inaugurated in December 2023.


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