Mexico cites lopsided support for Yucatan Peninsula train

National/World

FILE – In this March 18, 2019 file photo, Rogelio Jiménez Pons, director of Fonatur, points to a map of a planned train line through the Yucatan Peninsula, during an interview in Mexico City. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador claimed overwhelming support Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, after a weekend referendum on the train project produced lopsided results in a limited vote. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president claimed overwhelming support Monday after a weekend referendum on a train project in the Yucatan Peninsula produced lopsided results in a limited vote.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the so-called Mayan Train project will move forward after a vote Sunday in 84 municipalities in five states produced votes in favor, from 85% in Quintana Roo to 99% in Campeche. Still, only slightly more than 100,000 people voted in total.

The referendum occurred simultaneously with assemblies in the region’s indigenous communities. The government claimed near unanimous support there as well.

Critics had questioned the availability of objective information about the project and its impacts following an informational blitz by the government.

The Mayan Train would run 950 miles (1,525 kilometers) around the peninsula. There are environmental and development concerns about the project, which is envisioned to carry tourists from the white sand beaches of the Mayan Riviera to the peninsula’s more remote interior.

There are already reports of land speculation and communities divided over whether to support the project. But the government will now use the referendum results to move ahead on a project that is up against a condensed timeline.

Rogelio Jimenez Pons, the head of the government tourism promotion agency charged with getting the train built, said Monday that contracts would be bid in early January and he hoped construction would begin in late March or early April.

López Obrador’s referenda on large public projects have been controversial. He used one before taking office to kill the previous administration’s massive new partially-built airport for the capital.

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