Row Erupts Over Mayan Train ExpensesBy Pedro Alcalá | Wed, 03/25/2020 - 15:04
On Tuesday, a political organization called Mexicanos Contra La Corrupción y La Impunidad (Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity or MCCI) published a study regarding FONATUR finances that revealed the ostensibly inappropriate and wasteful expenses of its subsidiary state company put together to handle the execution of the Mayan train project: FONATUR Tren Maya. As described by Reporte Indigo, the study found these expenses to include several hundred bottle of fine wines and liquors, over a thousand bottles of beer, several gourmet cuts of beef and other luxury food products. The study also listed a six figure contract for pool maintenance and a contract with law firm Woodhouse Lorente Ludlow for legal consulting on the Mayan Train project. This latter contract was worth over US$1.8 million.
After MCCI’s publication was widely shared on social media throughout the day, FONATUR proceeded to deny these accusations and to explain in an open letter to MCCI that the expenses had been taken out of context. In the letter, FONATUR details the fact that FONATUR Tren Maya had absorbed the responsibilities of another previous FONATUR state subsidiary called FONATUR Operadora Portuaria, which included the operation of a few hotels throughout the country for which these types of purchases were standard. Moreover, FONATUR goes on in the letter to defend its contract with Woodhouse Lorente Ludlow as having being procured through strictly legal means and having played an essential part in the structuring of the Mayan Train project. FONATUR also accuses MCCI throughout the letter of not fulfilling their due diligence in their journalistic practice due to the fact that they never contacted FONATUR for comment on the matter before publishing the study. It would appear that MCCI conceded because the organization took the study offline and on its website, left in its place, is an apology from the head of journalism Salvador Camarena, along with a copy of FONATUR’s letter in its entirety.
MCCI’s stated goal per their website is to integrate academic, journalistic, legal, political and media resources for the purposes of combating systemic corruption and impunity in Mexico. The organization is led by Claudio X. González, a lawyer, activist and academic known for also creating other political organizations that have come to media prominence such as Mexicanos Primero and Mexico SOS.
Last year, El Universal reported that President López Obrador referred to González as a “corrupt and hypocritical conservative”, mockingly referring to MCCI as “Mexicans in Favor of Corruption” and denouncing González and his allies as saboteurs of the Santa Lucia airport project. The president’s conflicts with González can be traced back to the latter’s support for former president Peña Nieto’s educational reform, which the now president vigorously opposed as leader of the MORENA party.