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UN experts urge Mexico to rethink tourist train project

UN experts are calling on Mexico to rethink the ‘Tren Maya’ trainline project to ensure that rigorous environmental checks and meaningful consultations are carried out and human rights defenders protected.

Mexico’s flagship, 1,500 kilometre tourist train project connecting locations within the Yucatán peninsula, runs through the land of indigenous communities and traverses pristine rainforest.  

Since the project started, UN experts and officials have spoken out strongly about the human rights failures associated with the project.

Now a group of 10 experts and expert groups – including those focused on the environment, the rights of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders –  have spoken out about a host of concerns: weak environmental impact studies, the failure to consult with indigenous communities in ways that ensure genuine participation, attacks on human rights defenders and the very limited access to justice.

‘The Tren Maya project is running roughshod over community concerns and environmental protections, and is fuelling attacks against human rights defenders. This is at odds with everything Mexico should stand for’, said ISHR’s Raphael Viana David. 

‘The number of experts, and the breadth of their thematic concerns, make evident the degree of  negative and potentially negative impacts of this project,’ he added.

With the Mexican government designating the project a ‘national security project’ in an apparent bid to bypass legal challenges, in their statement, the experts remind the State of its obligations to affected people and the environment.  UN experts have expressed concern about the use of the army to carry out civilian duties before, including a group of UN experts in a 2020 detailed communication to the Mexican government about the Tren Maya project.

In their statement, the UN experts also direct their calls toward companies involved in the project decrying the lack of human rights due diligence by those involved.

“Relevant companies and investors domiciled in Spain, the United States and China cannot turn a blind eye to the serious human rights concerns related to the Train Maya project,’ they note.

Mexican NGOs and allies have welcomed the UN experts’ statement, calling for Mexico to ‘halt the works until the right to prior consent of the indigenous peoples and similar communities is guaranteed, and the environmental impact of the project is assessed in a holistic and complete manner.’

‘Mexico has ignored the concerns voiced by members of indigenous communities, Mexican NGOs and UN Special Rapporteurs about human rights failures associated with this project,’ said Viana David. ‘Now is the time to stop, rethink, and map out a way forward that places human rights at the fore.’

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