President Addresses Mayan Train OppositionBy Pedro Alcalá | Tue, 09/01/2020 - 18:15
President López Obrador made a provocative assertion: he claimed that NGOs and other civil and media organizations that were criticizing the Mayan Train project were being motivated to do so by political groups that provided them with funding for this explicit reason and purpose. He even went as far as to claim that he possessed information not only confirming this fact, but also confirming that some of those groups and funding sources were foreign. According to presidential spokesperson Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, the political groups funding this criticism by making contributions to these organizations and media outlets include the Ford Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Climate Works. Ramírez Cuevas even claimed that NED, which is technically listed as a private and nonprofit foundation, is an offshoot of the US State Department.
Among the critics that the president singled out were investigative news media outlet Animal Político. Ramírez Cuevas complemented this mention by publishing photos of documents on his Twitter account which prove that Animal Político did indeed receive over US$213,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and US$490,000 from the Ford Foundation, in theory to cover community issues in Mexico’s southeastern regions. No stranger to defending itself from presidential attacks from this and other administrations, Animal Político was quick to come out with a response last Friday. It presented documents that proved that it received this funding at a date that preceded both the announcement of the Mayan Train project and the presidential election that brought this administration to power. That same piece reported on the Kellogg Foundation’s response to these accusations, which made it clear that their contributions to Animal Político and any other institution with presence in Mexico’s southeastern region were unrelated to any political agenda; the piece additionally reported on the responses from some of the other NGOs and civil organizations mentioned by the president. This exchange created some tensions and led to difficult conversations regarding media censorship. The president, however, has not touched upon this subject again this week.
The Mayan Train’s second video progress report was delivered as promised during Monday’s press conference and later published on the project’s Twitter account without much fanfare or new information. However, it is likely that, as has become tradition over the past few months, the project will continue to generate spirited discussion. Perhaps that will even happen this week after the resignation of Victor Toledo Manzur from SEMARNAT. This public institution is in charge of monitoring and regulating the Mayan Train’s environmental impact, a responsibility that some media outlets, including Animal Político, have characterized as, at the very least, uncommon.