(Border Report) – On the same day the President of Mexico went online to promote his signature multi-billion-dollar tourism project, activists in the United States protested the construction of the Maya Train.
The train will connect Mayan Riviera’s resort cities like Cancun with Indian pyramids in Tulum and Palenque, picturesque towns and natural wonders and create thousands of jobs, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.
Construction involving some of Mexico’s largest engineering firms such as ICA has already started in the states of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, and land for a 250-acre station behind Cancun International Airport has been acquired, Lopez Obrador said.
“The Maya Train is a great endeavor, but it requires a lot of work,” Lopez Obrador said during his daily news conference on YouTube. “It’s 1,500 kilometers, we are making progress, five long segments are under construction already.”
But, according to U.S. advocates for the environment and Indigenous people, construction of the train is going to destroy farmland and jungle and displace residents and wildlife wherever the tracks are laid.
“We are very, very concerned that the U.S. government is not tuned to what is happening in Mexico or how their (financial assistance) is going to displace Indigenous communities in Chiapas … that are standing in the way of this supposed progress,” said El Paso labor activist Guillermo Glenn.
Glenn was part of a group that on Wednesday brought people dressed as jaguars and a large Day of the Dead-style giant puppet representing Lopez Obrador to a protest in front of the Mexican Consulate in El Paso.
The “jaguars” tore up a cardboard facsimile of the Maya Train before Glenn and others handed one of the consuls a letter demanding a halt to construction of the tracks and alleged armed incursions into autonomous Indian villages held since 1994 by the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
Glenn said the U.S. government should care about the issue because all the Indigenous people that stand to be displaced by the Maya Train will end up migrating here.
“We want to make sure this gets to the consul,” Glenn said.
Earlier in the day, the governor of Quintana Roo, where Cancun, Playa del Carmen and the Cozumel resorts are located, had said the Maya Train will help in the economic recovery of his state and of Mexico.
Gov. Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez said already 400 daily flights were bringing in 80,000 visitors per week to the resorts – a big improvement from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said his state leads Mexico in new job creation and has administered 1 million vaccines to its residents.
“We have built a balance between protecting the health of the people and economic recovery,” he said.