The endangered Mexican jaguar, native to the Yucatan Peninsula, whose survival would be severely threatened by the Tren Maya. Photo: DNA 40

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Much to the chagrin of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a federal judge on Monday, Feb. 22, ordered the permanent suspension of one of his pet projects, a damn-the-torpedoes tourist train that would have connected the entire southern Yucatan Peninsula (including his native state of Tabasco, where he owns a massive ranch with the bawdy name of La Chingada that would no doubt benefit financially from the project).

On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Judge Karla Domínguez Aguilar of Mexico’s Third District Court, based in the Yucatan capital of Mérida, ordered a permanent suspension of the railway in three separate municipalities, Chocholá, Izamal and Mérida.

The judge’s ruling was based on a habeas corpus appeal filed by local Maya communities against the National Tourism Promotion Foundation (Fonatur), which is overseeing the $8 billion railway’s construction, on grounds that it posed a threat of irreversible damage to the region’s fragile environment.

In accordance with the ruling, the Calkiní-Izamal and Izamal-Cancun sections of the 1,500-kilometer railroad will no longer be allowed came in response to an injunction request filed by Yucatán residents who claimed that the project will cause irreversible environmental damage.

The plaintiffs likewise claimed that they had not been properly consulted regarding the massive project, which they said would negatively impact their daily lives and livelihoods.

Last month, Judge Domínguez Aguilar ordered a temporary suspension of the train project, asking for further evidence of environmental impact studies, which she said were not forthcoming.

If past legal decisions against the president and his administration are any indication, AMLO and his team will certainly challenge and overturn Domínguez Aguilar’s ruling, thus preceding with his hellbent plan to lay rail tracks through the country’s largest jungle ecosystem, which is home to some of its most endangered native species, including the jaguar, the black howler monkey and the kanzacam cactus.

The Tren Maya project, which would link the southern Mexican states of Tabasco, Campeche,  Yucatán, Quintana Roo and Chiapas, linking the Maya archeological sites of Chichén Itzá, Cancún, Tulum and Palenque, was slated to begin operations in early 2023.

…Feb. 26, 2021

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