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AMLO: Environmental opposition to Mayan Train is all about politics

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
President López Obrador flies over south eastern Mexico and tries to downplay the environmental costs of his policies: Photo: Courtesy

Amid growing criticism, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador came out Monday to defend his environmental record.

“Most of the environmentalists complaining don’t know a thing about these communities. Opposition to the Mayan Train is all about politics,” said the president. 

Though some of the opposition to the Mayan Train likely has its roots in politics, analysts have characterized the president’s remarks as disingenuous. 

This is especially true given the opposition of dozens of indigenous collectives to the project. 

What is more, a new federal decree sidesteps all environmental regulations and gives regulatory agencies five days to grant a year-long approval for anything the government wants to build.

“Not a single tree will fall because of the Mayan Train,” Obrador said in a press conference back in 2018.

During a recent trip from Mérida to Cancun, Yucatán Magazine counted over 300 heavy construction vehicles and crews, as well as roughly 800 specialized trucks used to transport materials. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though the level of deforestation caused by the Mayan Train is difficult to ascertain, large swaths of jungle have been cleared across five Mexican states.

What is more, environmentalists say that this deforestation is also resulting in habitat loss for much of the region’s wildlife. 

Earlier: Mexico has no plan to undo environmental devastation from Mayan Train project

“We are seeing more and more displaced animals out here. It’s nice to see them, but it’s also concerning because this is not where they should be,” said a Kaua man who asked his name not be published.

Construction of a new overpass, part of the Mayan Train rail project, near Valladolid, Yucatán. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

But environmentalists point out that AMLO’s environmental policy failures are far from limited to the Mayan Train.

Work crews have already begun laying rails across sections of the Mayan Train route connecting Piste with Cancun. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

AMLO has also come under a large amount of pressure at home and abroad for his insistence on prioritizing the burning of fossil fuels to power the country.

Since assuming the office of president in 2018, López Obrador has been steadfast in his support of state-owned power companies including the CFE and Pemex.

What is more, under his government, generating renewable energy has become more expensive than ever, given special tariffs and taxes.

This fact was recently lamented by U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar, during a recent meeting with the president, where the two are said to have butted heads on the issue. 

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