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In Europe, Mexican Indigenous organizations denounce the Mayan Train

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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.
Indigenous protestors have found international supporters across Europe who are now calling on the Mexican government to suspend the Mayan Train’s construction. Photo: Courtesy

Indigenous groups from across Mexico, including Yucatán and Quintana Roo, sailed to Europe in what they describe as an invasion of conscience.

Part of their mission is to bring attention to the environmental damage being done to southeast Mexico by the Mayan Train.

“We are here in front of the eyes of the world to expose the way in which our land is being sacked and destroyed,” said group spokesman Ángel Sulub.

The Mayan Train project is intended to connect Mexico’s southeast via rail and possibly with Central America, bringing tourists and cargo to the nation’s poorest areas. But the project and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador have come under intense criticism from indigenous groups across the country.

“The words of President AMLO are a trick used to hide the war which he is waging against indigenous peoples and the life of mother earth itself,” said a joint press communique issued by El Concejo Indígena Mexicano and El Congreso Nacional Indígena.

Several indigenous leaders have now called to relocate the Mayan Train’s 170-billion-peso budget to build hospitals and provide essential services for people living in poverty across the region.

Earlier: AMLO hands Tren Maya to army, touts its economic benefits

After indigenous groups presented evidence of rampant environmental damage before Yucatán’s fourth district court, a judge temporarily halted construction of the rail project. But the ruling seems to have had little effect, as heavy machinery and construction crews have continued to rip through the jungle. 

A growing number of observers is beginning to express concerns that the project will never be finished, and was never feasible to begin with. More than halfway through AMLO’s tenure, the Mayan Train is only 10% complete, according to official sources. 

The delegation departed Mexico for Europe by ship in early May amid broader commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 Spanish Conquest of Mexico and 200 years of Mexico’s 1821 independence from Spain.

EZLN delegation says goodbye as they depart to Europe from Isla Mujeres on Sunday as Mexico marks the 500th anniversary of the Spanish Conquest. Photo: AP

“it is important that our brothers and sisters in Europe understand what is at stake not just for us and our identity but for the planet,” said Sulub. 

The trip was organized by the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, or EZLN. Since 1994 the group has been nominally at war with the Mexican state. Though after initial confrontations which included the kidnapping of government officials, attacks of CFE power stations, and the taking of towns, the conflict is most often described as frozen. 

That being said, the EZLN still maintains nominal control of several indigenous communities in the state of Chiapas.

In recent years, the EZLN has focused on a strategy of civil resistance. The Zapatistas’ main body is made up of mostly rural indigenous people, but it includes some supporters in urban areas and internationally.

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