The Little Train That Couldn’t
By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) can proclaim “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” all he wants, but the fact of the matter is that his albatrothic Tren Maya tourist train is nothing more than a scrapyard choo-choo going nowhere fast.
Just like his other pie-in-the-sky megaprojects (think the unused, inaccessible, dysfunctional Felipe Ángeles International Airport and the overpriced, officially-inaugurated-but-still-not-operating Dos Bocas oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco), the Tren Maya is just one more financial black hole for Mexican taxpayers that is never going to reach fruition.
Originally promised — by Mr. I-Love-to-Spend-Other-People’s-Money-on-my-Own-Delusional-Fantasies himself — to have a $7 billion price tag and to be up and running (chug-chug) by the end of last year, the inert Tren Maya train has been bogged down by well-founded legal challenges, equally well-founded environmental concerns, inefficient management, indecisive route variations, a mountain of cost overruns and, of course, AMLO’s constant reassignments of who is in charge of the project.
As of Saturday, March 25, and according to the administration’s own figures, the controversial 1,554-kilometer, five-state railway system is now budgeted to cost somewhere between $15 and $20 billion … and counting.
And as for its due date, well, AMLO said Saturday that “soon, very soon” his modern-day Old Ironsides would be plowing through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
In other words, quién sabe? (who knows?).
AMLO may indeed see himself as a little engine that could, but the truth is that both he and his “trencito” (little train) are antiquated, stuck-in-the-mud fossils with inauspicious prospects.
All aboard, anyone?