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Mexico decrees automatic approval for Mayan Train project

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks next to local authorities during the laying of the first stone of the “Tren Maya” in El Ideal, Quintana Roo on June 1, 2020. Photo: Elizabeth Ruiz / AFP via Getty Images

Mexico’s Interior Department issued a broad decree Monday requiring all federal agencies to give automatic approval for any public works project — including the Tren Maya — that the government deems in the national interest.

The decree sidesteps all environmental regulations and gives regulatory agencies five days to grant a year-long approval for anything the government wants to build.

The agencies would then have a year to grant definitive approval, by which time the projects would presumably already have broken ground.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has already started building a 950-mile / 1,500- kilometer “Mayan Train” line that will run in a rough loop around the Yucatán Peninsula.

Though the area has abundant indigenous communities, jungles, wildlife and archaeological sites, the project was rushed through with little in the way of consultations, feasibility studies or environmental impact statements.

But Monday’s decree would simply do away with such requirements. Its constitutionality was immediately questioned.

“This is serious. This is severe. This needs to be resisted,” security analyst Alejandro Hope wrote on Twitter.

Leonardo Núñez, a researcher at the nonprofit group Mexicans Against Corruption, called the decree “extremely dangerous.”

The decree states that “the projects and works carried out by the Mexican government associated with infrastructure in the areas of communications, telecommunications, customs, borders, waterworks, the environment, tourism, health, railways and everything having to do with energy, ports, airports … are declared to be in the public interest and a concern of national security.”

Critics say López Obrador rammed through the Mayan Train, or Tren Maya, without adequate study of its effects on the environment, cenotes, and ruins.

Some stretches of the route already have tracks, and the institute said some artifacts had already been disturbed by railway construction decades ago. But other stretches are to push through sensitive jungle terrain, though they will parallel existing roads or transmission lines. Even where an old railway line exists, the project would imply updating tracks and building new stations.

Some Mayan communities have filed court challenges against the project, arguing it will cause environmental damage. They also say they were not adequately consulted about it or they will not share in its benefits.

The Associated Press

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