Maya Train: destructive, illegal and illegitimate  

Aguada-Fénix-y-TM-08  Court orders work to stop on Phase One, from Palenque, Chiapas to Izamal, Yucatán.

By: Silvia Ribeiro*

On March 9, 2022, a collegiate court granted a definitive suspension of the work on sections 1, 2 and 3 of the misnamed Maya Train, the sections that go from Palenque, Chiapas, to Izamal, Yucatán (phase 1). In response, the federal government announced that it would continue the work anyway, thus disobeying the court order and even worse, violating once again the rights of the indigenous peoples affected by these works.

Another outrage over this project that is not Maya, nor just a train. It is a huge project of capitalist reconversion of ancestral territories of the Indian peoples, who have been invaded and looted since the Conquest, but who continue resisting and defending their lands, ways of life and nature. A project to facilitate and subsidize the advance of pig factories, industrial and toxic agricultural plantations, commercial tourism, big energy companies and others that expel communities from their lands, poison their cenotes [1], pollute their crops and kill their bees.

Denouncing and stopping the train’s impacts is crucial because it leads to environmental impacts, deforestation, disruption of biodiversity and fauna, as well as water pollution. But the project is even more serious in its entirety since, as Grain called it, it’s not about the train, but rather about a multimodal monopolizing of territories.

The decision just issued, confirmed a previous one that granted an injunction (amparo) to the lawsuit that the Múuch’ Xíinbal Assembly of Defenders of Maya Territory filed in January 2021, claiming that the regional Environmental Impact Statement (approved in November 2020) and all work that it enables on those sections constitute “violations of the right to a healthy environment and their rights as original Maya peoples, among them [the rights] to information and to participate in the determinations that may affect their territory and natural resources, as the Escazú Agreement indicated, approved in the current administration” (

The fourth district court then ordered the regional Environmental Impact Statement (MIA-R, its initials in Spanish) to be nullified and to stop work on Phase 1 of the Maya Train, based on the need to apply the precautionary principle, since “there is uncertainty about the true impact of the project in question, and therefore the balance of justice must lean in favor of nature, especially when considering that its impact has the potential to transcend future generations and not only those who live in the area, but even the entire world, in attention to the interdependence of global ecological systems.”

In April 2021, Semarnat appealed that sentence, in agreement with the position expressed in the MIA-R of phase 1 of the Maya Train, which recognizes that the impacts go far beyond the train, but that “Ethnocide can take a positive turn” (sic). See: Semarnat 2020, MIA-R Tren Maya page. 1329.

Now, the collegiate court has answered the appeal, confirming the definitive suspension, which orders that the work be suspended until the resolution of the substantive issue of the amparo filed by Múuch’ Xíinbal.

The government’s statements that  say it will proceed with the work despite the court order, are even more serious in light of the fact that the organizations that filed the lawsuit, the Múuch’ Xíinbal Assembly of Defenders of Maya Territory and the Indignation, Promotion and Defense of Human Rights AC organization, have been harassed by the government as if they were defenders of territory and human rights, even calling them “far right organizations.”

Despite the fact that its members have even received death threats, the former director of Fonatur, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, in addition to numerous false accusations against the organizations, publicly exposed people who participated in amparos against the project, making them extremely vulnerable. Múuch’ Xíinbal placed responsibility on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and on Jiménez Pons for whatever may happen to them ( Also the Indignation Team, which has accompanied this and other indigenous organizations in the region involved in the legal defense of their rights for decades and also answered the falsehoods, advising the president “to get out of his helicopter” and find out who they are and the reality where they work (

The government’s spite for the legal sentence of suspension in favor of the indigenous organizations, together with the attacks and falsehoods about them in order to justify legal violation and the violation of rights, is even more serious within the context that Mexico occupies second place globally in the murder of defenders of the land and that have increased during the present administration, while 95 percent of them continue in impunity, including that of Samir Flores Soberanes, also harassed by the government (

It’s crucial to support Múuch’ Xíinbal and all the indigenous peoples and organizations that despite threats have been able to present lawsuits against this and other megaprojects, as well as condemning the government’s cynical attitude of even ignoring legal decisions in their favor.

* Grupo ETC Researcher

[1] Cenotes are natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater and are used as a water supply, especially on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, March 12, 2022,

Re-Published with English. Interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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