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AMLO hands Tren Maya to army, touts its economic benefits

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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 Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador proposed the Tren Maya, or Mayan Train, as a candidate and has worked to see one of Mexico’s grandest infrastructure projects through. Photo: File

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is putting the Mexican army to work again.

AMLO says the army will run the Mayan Train project and several airports, and use any profits to finance military pensions.

The army is already overseeing construction on some parts of the controversial train project on the Yucatán peninsula, while private firms build the rest.

But López Obrador said Sunday the army will operate the train line “so there won’t be the temptation to privatize” the US$6.8 billion project.

López Obrador has already given the army more tasks than any other recent Mexican president, with military personnel doing everything from building airports to transporting medicine and running tree nurseries.

Yucatán Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal and López Obrador have signed an agreement that aims to benefit the economy of cities and communities key to the construction of the Tren Maya, as it is called in Spanish. 

Under the agreement, the inhabitants of Valladolid, Chemax, Tinum, Izamal and Mérida will benefit from investment in infrastructure projects related to the project. 

Vila Dosal promised that the economic and social benefits of the agreement will not be limited to jobs created directly by the construction of the Mayan Train, as other large scale infrastructure projects are also set to begin construction in 2021. Such projects include the expansion of the port in Progreso and the modernization of electrical and petro-fuel production. 

The massive infrastructure project championed by López Obrador hopes to bring urgently needed jobs and economic development to the southeast of the country. However, the project is not without detractors who argue that the project will never be financially viable. Several groups have also raised concerns pertaining to the environmental costs of the project. 

The first phase of construction of the Tren Maya began in May. The project is intended to connect Mexico’s southeast via rail and possibly connect with Central America. Plans call for the construction of 1,554 kilometers of rail and 18 stations. 

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