Mexico has seized 198 lots of land in Quintana Roo along phase 5 of the Mayan Train’s path.
In total, the expropriated land covers an area of 240 hectares or 600 acres located in the municipalities of Puerto Morelos and Solidaridad.
Though controversial, the move is legal as the prerogative is granted to the federal government by the Mexican constitution — but only when it comes to “matters of national interest.”
Several business leaders in Quintana Roo have denounced the move as political payback for not supporting the president’s Mayan Train project, and say they will be fighting back.
Others have called out the government for resorting to expropriation without having first held talks with the landowners regarding the possibility of a negotiated sale.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has justified the action by arguing that it’s in the best interest of the nation, as the rail network will stimulate the economy and create thousands of jobs.
“There is not too much that the landowners can do, the constitution clearly grants the federal government this right, though the circumstances certainly do seem suspect,” said a legal analyst, Jose Luis Pinzón Sosa.
The move comes after the federal government announced it would be redrawing the Mayan Train’s path in the interest of accelerating construction.
The Mayan Train has already accumulated at least 27 legal injunctions presented by indigenous and environmental associations. However, the federal government has decided to go forward with construction regardless, in what to legal experts appears to be a clear breach of the law.
The route of the Mayan Train is to span Tabasco, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo.
The Mayan Train was a campaign promise of now President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was elected in 2018. The project is designed to stimulate tourism in the region and contribute to the economic development of southeastern Mexico.
Construction of the rail network and delivery of the train is due by the end of López Obrador’s term in 2023 — though the feasibility of this deadline has been called into question several times.