Published by Brent Patterson on November 25, 2020
n January 2019, the Peace Brigades International-Mexico Project commented: “The organizations that we accompany continue to be concerned about [Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s] position on the rights of indigenous populations, given that his public discourse seems to respect their autonomy, but he continues to propose initiatives of megaprojects such as the Mayan Train or new mining investments.”
The Mayan Train (Tren Maya) refers to a megaproject that would link by rail Mayan archaeological sites in five states (Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and the Yucatán). The multibillion-dollar project would involve the building of 1,500 kilometres of railroad track, with nearly one-third of it through tropical forests.
UN Special Rapporteurs concerned about Mayan Train
Now, Mexico New Daily reports: “A group of United Nations officials has written to the federal government to express concerns about possible human rights violations related to the construction of the Maya Train in Mexico’s southeast.”
The six UN special rapporteurs stated that Indigenous people’s land rights, the right not to be evicted and the right to health could be adversely affected by the megaproject.
Their letter further notes concern about: “information indicating that the environmental impact study for the project has been inadequate”; “risks of environmental damage”; the consultation process that was not “culturally adequate” and that “complete, adequate and impartial information about the project and its potential impacts” was made available because the studies had not been completed; the criminalization and defamation of human rights defenders opposed to the megaproject; and the “possible militarization” of Mexico’s southeast given the army will build two sections of the megaproject.
Their letter can be read in full here. One of the signatories is Pender Island, Canada-based UN Special Rapporteur David R. Boyd.
This follows the concern expressed in January by the Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights that the process of Indigenous consultation had not complied with all the international standards.
PBI-Mexico accompanied organizations
This past April, the signatories to this open letter further stated that the consultation of Indigenous peoples did not meet international criteria.
Among the 190 groups that signed the letter of concern were: Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra y Agua Morelos, Puebla y Tlaxcala; Casa del Migrante Saltillo; Centro Diocesano para los Derechos Humanos “Fray Juan de Larios”, A.C.; Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales (ProDESC); Familia Pasta de Conchos; Centro de Derechos Humanos de la Montaña, Tlachinollan, A. C.; and Comité Cerezo.
It is not known if any Canadian companies are currently involved in this megaproject, but EFE and Milenio reported earlier this year that several had expressed interest in it.
Those entities include: the Montreal-based train manufacturer Bombardier Inc.; the Quebec City-based pension fund La Caisse dé depot et placement du Québec; and the Toronto-based Canadian bank Scotiabank.
In July 2019, Scotiabank denied a media report that it had withdrawn from the project and stated, “[Scotiabank] carefully analyzes the opportunities in public and private projects that are presented exclusively according to business criteria. This process in the project in question continues its course.”
Construction on the Mayan Train has continued during the pandemic and the Mexican President has given a firm completion date of October 2022.