Transisthmic Train Delays Add Up to Nine MonthsBy Pedro Alcalá | Fri, 12/04/2020 - 16:10
Completion of the transisthmic train, which President López Obrador had slated for April 2021, will be delayed by eight or nine months according to José Sánchez Pérez, Director of the project, in an interview with El Universal. This railway rehabilitation, modernization and construction work is considered to be the most important part of the Transisthmic Corridor project and has a budget of more than US$117 million.
While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the construction and development process is the main culprit of this delay, it is not the only one. There have been environmental and social issues impeding its progress, as reports El Universal. The newspaper informed in early November that 17 community representatives from the state of Oaxaca urged SEMARNAT to suspend the ongoing railway development works taking place under the umbrella of this project. They argued that the project’s environmental impact report was incomplete and thus these works were illegal. Among these representatives was Dagoberto Toribio Severo, President of the Union of Indigenous Communities From The North Isthmus Zone (UCIZONI), on whose campaign questioning the legality of the transisthmic corridor project we reported back in April.
Later in November, these same representatives, supported by a delegation from the Mexican Center For Environmental Law (CMDA), presented their demands to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Right in Mexico. The representatives not only reiterated their environmental criticisms but also asserted that their human rights were being violated by both the government and the companies involved in the project, who urged them to withdraw their complaints under the threat of extralegal consequences. Sánchez Pérez acknowledged these issues in the interview, claiming that these “social protests are being addressed promptly.” Finally, at the end of the month El Universal reported that communities from the Juchitan area of Oaxaca were blocking highways, demanding that property owners affected by the project be properly compensated. While the organizations who put together this mobilization did not call for the cancellation of the project, they were demanding a higher rate of participation from all local communities in its development, along with more transparency from all authorities involved.
Despite these ongoing issues, enthusiasm for the development of the transisthmic corridor has now waned. In his latest Expert Contributor piece, published at the end of September, Juan Pablo Guzmán Cobián, Minister of Economy of Oaxaca, insists that “this ambitious program marks the beginning of a new phase of investment for the Isthmus, which means Oaxacans will no longer be forced to migrate to northern areas or the US in search of other opportunities for themselves and their families.” These ambitions are echoed by statements made this week by Veracruz Governor Cuitláhuac García Jiménez, who referred to the trasisthmic corridor as one of the most important projects for the state in 2021, according to this report from Al Calor Político.