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New official video may signal Mayan Train is scaling back

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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.
The Mayan Train is one of Mexico’s president’s massive infrastructure projects. But there are widespread concerns that it may turn into a giant white elephant with devastating fiscal and environmental consequences. Photo: Courtesy

After last weekend’s presidential referendum, the federal government says it is accelerating work on the Mayan Train.

To that effect, Fonatur has released a video update on the 932-mile rail project. 

But the video update made no mention of the project’s fifth stretch which runs for 75 miles between Cancún and Tulum.

This omission may signal a walking back of the Mayan Train’s ambitions amid increasing delays and criticism.

The presidential referendum organized by the federal government to ratify AMLO’s mandate was characterized by extremely low voter turnout — which in some states was in the single digits. Photo: Courtesy INE

Last November, Mexico’s Interior Department issued a broad decree 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.

To help accelerate the project, the federal government has called upon Mexico’s armed forces to help get the project back on schedule

Among the main sources of criticism are environmental concerns and the legal but controversial expropriation of extremely valuable private land.

In Quintana Roo alone, the expropriated land covers an area of 240 hectares or 600 acres located in the municipalities of Puerto Morelos and Solidaridad.

The federal government has also recently been on defense regarding arguments that the Mayan Train project is having catastrophic effects on the region’s environment. 

One of the most recent protests involved Greenpeace activists tying themselves to heavy machinery in an attempt to derail the Mayan Train.

Earlier: Mexico has no plan to undo environmental devastation from Mayan Train project

“Our jungles and cenotes are safe, opposition to the Mayan Train is first and foremost political. We have created over 100,000 jobs, why does the media not report on that,” said minister of culture Alejandra Fausto. 

During a recent trip along the Mérida-Cancún highway, Yucatán Magazine counted over 300 pieces of heavy equipment, including bulldozers and rock crushers, as well as roughly 800 large trucks used for moving construction debris and vegetation. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Grach / Yucatán Magazine

“Not a single tree will fall because of the Mayan Train,” López Obrador said in a press conference back in 2018.

Though the level of deforestation caused by the Mayan Train is difficult to ascertain, large swaths of jungle have been cleared across five Mexican states.

Also at risk according to speleologists are the region’s cenotes, which can be geologically delicate and have in the past caved in even under the weight of normal vehicles. 

Also being called into question are the impressive images of plans for Mayan Train stations which have failed to materialize. 

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.

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