The Maya Train: 3 new court orders stop its progress

A Yucatán judge determined that doubts exist about the real impact of the Maya Train on the environment. The decision suspends Semarnat’s authorization of the project with which, in fact, the work must be suspended for now. The Maya Train, however, is not cancelled

By: Alberto Nájar in Pie de Página

Mexico City

Construction of the Maya Train confronts a new obstacle. On Wednesday, a judge granted three orders to suspend progress on Phase 3 of the megaproject, one of the most important for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government.

The resolutions have the character of definitive; in other words, they imply the suspension of the work -for now- because the judge considered that there are doubts about the real damage to the region’s environment, and above all the impact on the rights of the communities settled in the stretch of the railroad.

However, the decisions of the Fourth District judge in Yucatán do not imply that construction of the Maya Train is definitively canceled. According to law, the federal government has the possibility of filing appeals to a collegiate court to reverse the judge’s decision.

The judicial rulings refer to the Environmental Impact Statement presented by the National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism (Fonatur, its Spanish acronym), the agency responsible for the megaproject. The judge determined that there is “uncertainty” about the true impact of the railroad on the environment of the region where it is being constructed.

The document was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat, its Spanish acronym). It’s a fundamental requirement for the start and conclusion of the work. But the judge established that said approval is not sufficient, as she points out in the decisions.

“The mere existence of an environmental impact statement does not grant absolute certainty that all variables have been considered, or if the interpretation of the effects of the State’s actions in a specific project will be effectively those embodied in a document of such nature.”

That is saying that it isn’t clear if effectively the impact on nature will be as Fonatur asserts. And in view of that, “a diverse principle called in dubio pro natura” must be reaffirmed. In other words, “when in doubt about the certainty or scientific accuracy of environmental risks, it must be resolved in favor of nature.”

The three definitive suspensions imply stopping the work: legally no project of this nature can be maintained if it doesn’t have an environmental impact statement.

So far, there is no reaction from Fonatur to the court decisions. But last February, the Fund’s director Rogelio Jiménez Pons warned that opposition to the megaproject does not come from the communities in the region, but from civilian organizations.

“The communities are not the ones that filed the cases,” he said to journalists. “A large majority of the communities have shown their support for the Maya Train. Those who demonstrate and have the right to do so are the non-governmental organizations”[NGOs].

Such an assertion seems to underestimate the rulings of this Wednesday. The Múuch’ Xíinbal Assembly of Defenders of Maya Territory and the Chuun T’aan Maya Collective presented the lawsuit. The fourth district judge establishes that the organizations demonstrated, “at least incidentally” their legitimate interest in the case because she notes: “that they are residents of the corresponding municipalities.”


Originally Published in Spanish by Pie de Página

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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