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Mexican celebrities join indigenous groups against 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.
When the Mayan Train was first announced over three years ago the public sentiment around the project appeared to be mostly positive, but now appears to be shifting. Photo: Courtesy

The actor and producer Gael García is now among several high-profile Mexicans expressing opposition to the Mayan Train

“Once again so-called neoliberal progress is destroying the environment,” said García referencing the Mayan Train on Twitter.

According to poles by the federal government, The Mayan Train rail project has an approval rating among Mexicans of approximately 90%. 

However, several pollsters and journalists working for outlets such as El Economista have called these claims “outright laughable.”

Fher Olvera, the singer for popular Mexican rock band Mana has also come out against the Mayan Train, calling it “an environmental catastrophe.”

The remarks made by the musician at a recent Concert in Cancún are reported to have garnered an ovation by his public. 

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.

While there may not be any reliable polls reflecting the sentiment of Mexicans with regard to the Mayan Train, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador himself remains popular. 

Much of the opposition to the Mayan Train comes from indigenous groups, an embarrassment for a president who has positioned himself as an ally of the Maya people.

Earlier: New legal challenges to Mayan Train ignored by AMLO’s government

Indigenous leaders have suggested that the Mayan Train’s 170-billion-peso budget be allocated to build hospitals and provide essential services for people living in poverty across the region.

Aside from budgetary and environmental concerns, the project has harnessed a good deal of anger due to land expropriations affecting both people living in the countryside as well as major landowners. 

In the municipalities of Puerto Morelos and Solaridad alone, the expropriated land covers an area of 240 hectares or 600 acres.

The land in question is among the most valuable real estate in all of Mexico given its proximity to tourist hubs like Cancún and Playa del Carmen.

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.”

A growing number of observers is beginning to express concerns that the project will never be completed, and was never feasible to begin with. 

More than halfway through AMLO’s tenure, the Mayan Train is roughly 15% complete, according to official sources.

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