The Maya Train: the consultation and the dispossession

Maya Train | Tren Maya

By: Carlos Fazio

Preceded with a big campaign of media propaganda and “field work” of officials from the National Fund for Tourism Promotion and the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, yesterday, December 15, the “participatory consultation” on the Maya Train Development Project was held in municipios of Yucatán, Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche and Quintana Roo, where Maya, Ch’ol, Tzeltal and Tzotzil communities exist. [1]

Under the premise that: “participation is inclusion, co-responsibility and democracy” and the slogan “Let’s decide together!” the formula for the manufacture of consent (Chomsky dixit) concealed that the decision was made before the consultation; President Andrés Manuel López Obrador adopted it when he became president, independently of the free determination of the Maya people. As AMLO himself has said: “rain, thunder or lightning the Maya Train will be built. Like it or not.”

Critical researchers have argued that the Maya Train is not new, nor is it just a train, nor is it Maya. And that it will not remove Mexico from the slope of neoliberalism nor return to the State its guiding role as the motor of national development: it includes two infrastructure megaprojects on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Yucatan Peninsula of geopolitical and private scope, whose central objective is the territorial transformation of the south-southeast region of Mexico at the service of US corporate economic and security interests. And as such, it could lead to a new process of dispossession of lands under ejido property in the areas concerned (via induced or frankly coercive expropriation) and the consequent spatial segregation of the Maya population.

To do this, as Josué G. Veiga points out (“The Fourth Transformation travels by train”), together with the “imposition of certain development” and apart from Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization on prior and informed consultation, the Maya Train project has appropriated “meanings and imaginaries of the Maya culture to alter them and sell them as the trademark of a nationalist project.”

According to Ana Esther Ceceña, the geopolitical scope and the strategic effects of the transformation of the southeast region place the project as a nodal point of the “world market’s traffic” and, therefore, of the “war” for global control. For the US, but also for its competitors (China, Japan and other emerging economies), control of that region “can make the difference in the hierarchy of powers at the global level.”

In particular −and more after the agreements reached around the Protocol of Amendments of the Trade Agreement between Mexico, the US and Canada (T-MEC), which ratify the maquiladora vocation of the Fourth Transformation nation project−, Washington seeks to maintain the Greater Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico (of which the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Yucatan Peninsula are strategic areas) a part of its jurisdictional territory (or homeland) that, among other resources, shelters an immense oil wealth that encompasses from Venezuela to Texas.

Said objective was already established in Plan Colombia and Plan Puebla Panamá of Bill Clinton (1999-2000), renamed the Mesoamerican Initiative by Felipe Calderón and Álvaro Uribe in 2008, and in which the Mexican Isthmus area (today the Maya-Tehuantepec route of AMLO) appeared as the best alternative “hinge” to the Panama Canal (given its saturation faced with the volume of merchandise and raw materials traffic), for the mobility of US capitalism in its protected ambit of North America and in inter-imperialist competition with the two other mega-blocks integrated by the Asian powers of the Pacific Basin and the European Union.

With the carrot of “development,” “progress” and “modernization” of the marginalized peoples of the Mexican south-southeast, then as now the transnational capitalist class is offered the installation of sweatshop corridors with [government] subsidies and low salaries, in an area that besides the Maya Train includes the Trans-Isthmus Corridor with its multimodal infrastructure of interoceanic connection (highway network, railroads, ports, fiber optic) for the transport of merchandise and natural goods and their “development poles” at the service of real estate and tourist corporations (hotels, housing, shopping centers, industrial ships and manufacturing); for the energy branch (new gas pipelines in Yucatan, the Dos Bocas refinery) and for the agro-industrial sector (palm oil, sorghum, sugar cane, soy, Sembrando Vida program). In its geopolitical dimension it also includes the urgency of putting up “containment curtains” given the migratory flows of Mexicans and Central Americans to the US.

With another concealed objective of the “participatory consultation” about the Maya Train: given that the financing mechanism for land availability will be through Infrastructure and Real Estate Trusts, a massive process of dispossession can be foreseen that will convert property owners into dispossessed, because although the land will not change ownership, it will be delivered as material support of the trust to partners o shareholders like BlackRock, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Grupo Carso, CreditSuisse, Grupo Barceló, ICA, Grupo Salinas, Bombardier, Grupo Meliá, Bachoco and Hilton Resort.

[1] The government reports that the result of the consultation was resounding approval of the Maya Train.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Monday, December 16, 2019

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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