UN experts warn of negative effects of the Mayan Train in Mexico

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Archive – Construction work for the Mayan Train in Mexico – EL UNIVERSAL / ZUMA PRESS / CONTACTOPHOTO

United Nations experts have expressed their concern on Wednesday about the Mayan Train macro-project, 1,500 kilometers of railroad tracks in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, due to the collateral effects it may have on the environment, indigenous peoples and the use of natural resources.

The President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is one of the main supporters of this project, but experts consider that the Government must adopt «additional measures» that will ultimately guarantee respect for human rights and the environment.

They warn of the threats and attacks against those who challenge this initiative, as well as the limited access to independent and impartial justice, in a particularly problematic context because it is a project elevated to the category of national security.

This change of status makes it possible to derogate certain safeguards, but for the experts, it cannot make Mexico avoid its «obligation» to «respect, protect and fulfill the human rights of the people affected by this megaproject and to protect the environment in accordance with international standards».

This decision, they warned, «not only has the potential to allow human rights abuses to go unaddressed, but also undermines the project’s purpose of bringing inclusive and sustainable social and economic development to the five Mexican states involved.»

The chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, Fernanda Hopenhaym, has also expressed her «grave concern» over «the growing involvement of the military in the construction and management of the project,» which has been mired in controversy since its conception.

Among the requests made by these rapporteurs is the need for meaningful participation of affected communities, as well as the need for any assessment of the possible effects of the Mayan Train to be prepared and published in a clear manner.

«The free, prior and informed consent of indigenous peoples must be respected and the actual and potential cumulative impacts of projects must be assessed in a transparent manner, in accordance with international human rights and environmental standards,» the signatories have stressed.

MESSAGE TO COMPANIES The message of the rapporteurs also extends to the participation of companies, which they urge to take into account all those derived from a project that entails costs of some 20 billion dollars.

They consider that «relevant companies and investors domiciled in Spain, the United States and China cannot turn a blind eye to the serious human rights problems related to the Tren Maya project».