Mayan Train protestors tie themselves to bulldozers, delaying new jungle path

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Greenpeace protestors block progress at a Mayan Train work site Monday in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Photo: Greenpeace

Greenpeace organizers tied themselves to heavy machinery in Quintana Roo on Monday, the latest high-profile attempt to derail the Mayan Train.

At issue was a modified route announced in January that tears apart miles of low jungle.

Demonstrators stated the tracks between Cancún and Tulum have been hastily rerouted through virgin jungle without environmental studies. They added that the damage to flora, fauna, and the world’s largest underground aquifers system will be irrevocable.

Nearby fragile ecosystems include cenotes such as Sac Actún and Dos Ojos.

Opposition to the massive infrastructure initiative, a campaign promise from Mexico’s president, has become a cause célèbre. Comedian Eugenio Derbéz and singer Rubén Albarrán of Café Tacvba are just two of several celebrities to take to social media against the train.

The group of celebrities, as part of the Sélvame del Tren (Save Me From the Train) campaign, also include telenovela actress Kate del Castillo and pop-folk singer Natalia Lafourcade.

José Ramón López Beltrán, the president’s eldest son who weeks ago was involved in a controversy related to his Texas mansion, mocked the celebrities, for example saying that Derbéz’s “best moments were in the nineties.” He urged them not to pay attention to their “fatuous” and “superfluous bad friends.”

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who denies the train route is bad for the environment, claimed that his critics are “pseudo-environmentalists” paid off by his enemies.

Also rallying alongside AMLO was Claudia Sheinbaum, mayor of Mexico City and probable future candidate for president, who said critics are being manipulated by “fake news.” 

Alarms went off in January when Fonatur, the governmental authority in charge of the Mayan Train project, announced the modification of the rail line map. After almost a year of work in which 22,000 trees were cut, new leadership decided that 60.3 kilometers / 37.5 miles of Section 5 would no longer run along the highway on an elevated platform. To meet a deadline, they will instead clear land and lay tracks at ground level through the jungle, parallel to the federal road.

The Mayan Train is scheduled to be completed next year and carry tourists and cargo through Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Chiapas.

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