The Maya Train and the Mexican State versus the UN

By: Magdalena Gómez

Six rapporteurs of special human rights procedures sent the Mexican State, through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a document in which they expressed “grave concerns” about the Maya Train on issues of territory, dispossession and rights to health, the negative effect on the right of the indigenous peoples to their traditional lands, consultation without international standards, irregular environmental impact studies and possible harassment, criminalization, defamation against human rights defenders personas, as well as possible militarization of the zone (September 21 Communication to Mex 11/2020).

On November 20, 2020, the permanent mission for Mexico in the United Nations office and other international organisms with headquarters in Geneva sent the response of Mexico (OGEO4560). In it, it repeats positions like the defense of the consultation process and its consistent innovation in which specific consultations will follow, as well as the follow-up commissions agreed upon when the train was approved. At the same time it reaffirms controversial issues, like the trusts and, based on the powers of the State in matters of expropriation for reasons of public utility, now it recognizes that in the case of evictions it will seek negotiation, but if that doesn’t work out indemnification is imposed. They left out of their response the ongoing legal avenues promoted by indigenous organizations in the national ambit, as well as their initial search at the inter-American level, which doesn’t operate with the required speed. Its big omissions are those relative to the indigenous peoples, the Maya civilization and the so-called archaeological remains, the impacts they have suffered with other megaprojects and to their very concept of so-called progress.

To start with, the Mexican State offered a definition: “The Maya Train is a project for improving people’s quality of life, caring for the environment and detonating sustainable development;” then, it enunciates its objectives, without highlighting tourism. It also introduces, without defining, that what were once development poles will now be “sustainable communities” and clarifies that they do not report their location in order to avoid speculation.

In the land section, they pointed out that the current legislation establishes that the general communications routes are national assets and the railways, stations, train yards, traffic control centers and right of way, are part of the general railway communication. The national assets will not be part of a trust since they belong to the nation, if not enough, the constitution of the trusts to which the lands will be contributed according to their regime (federal, state, municipal, private or ejido) has been considered. If in any of these cases it is determined that it’s necessary to incorporate common use lands belonging to an ejido, their participation will be carried out in accordance with Agrarian Law, which permits the association in participation for 30 years with the possibility of renewal.

This way will permit that we’re not dealing with what are called infrastructure and real estate trusts (Fibra) in all cases. And they maintain that under no modality is it foreseen that common use ejido lands will be converted into private property.

Regarding the concern of the rapporteurs about the military participation in indigenous territories for the construction of sections 6 and 7 of the Maya Train Project, they responded that it’s based on the Organic Law of the Mexican Army and Air Force. For greater support, on January 11 the addition of a section to Article 29 of the Organic Law of Federal Public Administration was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation, relative to the functions of the Secretary of National Defense: “Providing auxiliary services that require the Army and Air Force, as well as the civil services that the federal Executive designates for said forces.”

The response has a political-diplomatic impact, the efforts of the rapporteurs would only reach to carry out a follow-up to its content; these procedures do not have a binding character. Accompaniment of the government was agreed upon with the Mexico office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that hopefully maintains priority, as it has up to now, on the rights of the peoples.

It’s a fact that the so-called Maya Train will continue for the rest of this six-year presidential term. The challenge that remains for the communities is to continue the task of information about the impact of the megaproject and carry out the follow-up and denunciation of land dispossession situations in the ejidos. We’re facing a case of submission of the law due to the disproportionate use of State’s political force.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee





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