The Maya Train, development and State presence

Maya Train | Tren Maya

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

The poverty and precariousness in which the communities and inhabitants of the Yucatan Peninsula live is not the product of their supposed isolation from the global market. There has been no such thing for more than a century. Through the henequen industry, forest exploitations, pig farms, extractive projects and big tourism, the peninsular territory and its residents are tightly connected to it.

Nor are they the result of a hypothetical absence of the State. Only those who have not stopped in those 180,000 square kilometers can say such a thing. State presence extends to the last corner of the peninsula, among many other ways, by means of regulation of ejido life, agricultural credit, the public school and health system, the action of the development agencies, the policies for attention to poverty (call them what they’re called) and the network of drinking water, electricity and roads.

What explains the misery of one part of the population of the region is neither the lack of “development” nor the state presence, but rather the modalities that they have assumed. Poverty is the work of a kind of capital accumulation in which State and market have intertwined to manufacture entrepreneurs in the heat of public works and the dispossession and devastation of natural resources, while the vote of the great fortunes imposes rulers and social programs control the population.

The central cause of the extreme poverty and economic stinginess comes from a “growth” matrix of guided by the savage capitalism that dispossesses the original peoples of lands and territories, promotes real estate and tourist developments that plunder the environment, exploits native and migrant labor, favors the installation of pig “factories,” permits the production of transgenic soybeans and of abundant agro-toxic greenhouse crops, which closes its eyes in the face of clearing the jungle.

A central piece of this prototype is drug trafficking and the criminal industry, unthinkable outside the global market. They are not an “accident” or an “anomaly.” They are a substantial part of the machinery that drives the region’s economic movement. From the sanctuary cities where the families of the drug lords live to the large enterprises where they launder part of their profits, passing through the transit routes of illicit substances, the southeast is a key to the drug business in Mexico.

We’re talking about a model that is reproduced with the support of a pattern of cultural consumption that exalts the glorious Mayan past, but disrespects (or “folkloricizes”) the Peninsular Mayas of the present, that expels members of their communities to convert them into day laborers, maids, bellboys, waiters and sex servants, that doesn’t respect their right to self-determination, that stops their reconstitution as peoples, recognizing ejido authorities, but doesn’t allow them to manage their affairs as they see fit through autonomy.

As Grain recalled, the Mexico section of the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples addressed this process in the session it held in Maní, Yucatán, in 2013. Multiple testimonies documented “a comprehensive process of monopolizing lands and the commons, of socio-environmental and territorial destruction and of annihilation of the social fabrics as part of an orchestrated plan for the displacement and emptying of the territories of the Mayas.”

Far from putting an end to this development model, the Maya Train it deepens it. It is not a matter of the correlation of forces, but rather of the nature of the project. The train is not only a railroad line, but also a territorial reordering initiative with 30 stations and 18 development poles, on ejido land, financed, as the researcher Violeta R. Núñez showed in these pages ( 02/23/opinion/012a2pol), not with public resources, but rather with hybrid financial instruments, through an Infrastructure and Real Estate Trust called the Tren Maya Fibra. Fibra is the gateway to the confiscation of ejido property in the region and the large-scale dispossession of social property.

The director of Fonatur, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, confessed that in the new cities there will be zones “for modest people” who could walk to work, but also “to ask for alms if necessary, but on foot.”

The project not only doesn’t have sufficient environmental impact studies, but it has also not been consulted with the indigenous peoples, as Convention 169 of the ILO [International Labor organization] establishes. As the UN-HR concluded, the consultation that authorities organized at the end of last year did not comply with international standards on human rights in the matter. This opinion was preceded by critical questions from the Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples and from the Committee against Torture. Moreover: multiple testimonies realize that the authorities conditioned the delivery of supports [money] and the solution of old demands on the approval of the train.

It’s enough to look at the Maya Train project in the mirror of the Enerall-Alfonso Romo scandal or in the “development” of Cancun and the Riviera Maya to anticipate its final station. There is no worse denial that pretending that the implacable logic of capital can be regulated in favor of the popular camp just because those who until recently criticized some government institutions are now leading them.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




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