More than a train: territorial re-zoning

The Maya Train as new articulation infrastructure for the agro-industrial and tourist-real estate capitals on the peninsula. Cortesía: Gasparello and Quintana

By: Magdalena Gómez

The President’s visit to the southeast to supervise the progress of the so-called Maya Train offered a twist that, although it’s not new, is new because, despite the fact that he had kept his speech centered only on the train, he now opened and formalized the proposal for re-zoning land use, although still opaque. It was his officials who from the beginning brought up the intention to develop that plan starting with the stations of the aforementioned train.

The reactions of indigenous organizations against the project are located precisely on the impact to their culture and territories from the so-called development poles. For that they have resorted to filing lawsuits for protection (amparos) with different results, including the most recent order for a definitive suspension not complied with.

It was a tour for strategic presidential announcements. It’s not only the Maya Train, already recognized, it’s also infrastructure development: the expansion of Puerto Progreso; the completion of a section of the gas pipeline that was needed to bring fluid to the peninsula from Tabasco, only two pumping plants are lacking; two combined cycle plants will be constructed, two thermoelectric, one in Mérida and another in Valladolid.

He also decided that in order to protect the work and so that there is no temptation to privatize it, the operation of sections 1, 6 and 7 of the Maya Train, as well as the Tulum, Chetumal and Palenque airports, in addition to the Santa Lucia airport, will be left to the armed forces through a company whose purpose is to finance the pensions of soldiers and sailors. And at the same time security in the region will be guaranteed.

Lastly, he called on the governors of Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo to subscribe to the Agreement on the Southeast Land Use Program, which defines the regulations for use of the soil to avoid disorder, corruption and that respects urban development plans planes in the five states. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the UN-Habitat representative in Mexico signed as honorary witnesses. The secretaries of Environment and Natural Resources, National Defense, the Navy, Communications and Transportation, Agrarian and Urban Land Development, Tourism, the general director of the National Fund for Tourism Promotion were also witnesses for the federal government. The municipal president of Tulum was also a witness. The content of the agreement was not disclosed, it will be important to know the land use regulations.

Nor was it reported on the still pending environmental impact statements, nor the current state of the ejido lands that will be affected, or negotiated, as they usually say. At this point it’s clear that the simulated consultation of one year ago is being deployed in some follow-up commissions with basically ejido authorities around the specific requests they made in the so-called forums. In this, they are concentrating on the federal agencies to “comply with them.”

At all the events on his tour, the head of the Executive insisted on the scope of the government’s commitment: “We must take care of the environment, we must take care of the flora and fauna, and we must also take care of the archaeological heritage. That’s precisely why the Maya Train is being made, to expose the greatness of Maya culture, which developed and flourished in this region. It would be mote than a contradiction to affect archaeological zones.” And once it’s finished and the train is operating, he pointed out that it would boost tourism a lot. All this without mentioning the indigenous peoples, the historical guardians of their territories and culture!

That is indeed the great contradiction. Only two indirect references, when mentioning the train’s route he pointed out: “Ending there in Xpujil or at the limits of Quintana Roo, where there is a dispute that I hope will be resolved well.” And the second was the reiteration of the focus on the individual beneficiaries of the different social programs, indicating the respective figures at each event. That is the cornerstone in the whole of the so-called 4T policy: the indigenous without their peoples. Perhaps that’s why there has been no response to the letter from six UN rapporteurs last September, headed by the rapporteur for Indigenous peoples, expressing grave and well-founded concerns about the so-called Maya Train project, given the impact on the peoples, as subjects of collective rights. That is the situation of a project that goes because it goes, and which accompanies others. For now, in Huexca, Morelos, the community opposition is under pressure that despite the legal protections they have achieved, the threat of initiating the operation of the thermoelectric plant is implemented before offering justice for Samir Flores.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee






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