Mayan Train project ignites anger among Zapatistas

Rebel group has been cynical about López Obrador for years

A community meeting in the Zapatista community of Chiapas.
A community meeting in the Zapatista community of Chiapas in 2014. Photo: Getty

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) warned that it will oppose the Maya Train and the creation of a national guard, among other projects proposed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The new president, while described as a leftist, has never gained fans among the rebel group from Chiapas.

The Zapatista leadership commemorated its 25th anniversary with a renewed vow to defend their land.

“We are going to fight, we are going to face them, we are not going to allow (López Obrador) to pass his destructive projects here,” said one leader, known only as Subcomandante Moisés.

To contain violence linked to drug trafficking, López Obrador seeks a constitutional reform to create a national guard with tens of thousands of soldiers.

This proposal has been harshly criticized by human rights advocates because it reinforces the military-centered anti-drug strategy that López Obrador criticized for years. AMLO had campaigned on a promise that the military would return to their barracks.

The Mayan Train project is another outrage, they say. While some indigenous groups support the president’s plans, the Zapatistas are firmly against it.

“We tell him that we do not believe him,” said Moisés, calling the president a “trickster” and “crafty” for wanting to pretend to be with the indigenous people of Mexico when, in fact, he said, he seeks to “destroy them.” 

Moisés was offended that AMLO “grabbed our ways and our customs” and “pretended” to ask the spirits permission to build the rail line, which will link Cancun with forested archaeological sites.

The US$6 billion Mayan Train will connect tourist havens with less visited archaeological sites such as Palenque, which is in Chiapas, where the Zapatistas are based and control large amounts of territory.

Environmentalists are concerned the tracks will cut through virgin forest and jaguar habitats.

The rebel army has expressed doubts about López Obrador for years. In 2006, the first time he ran for president, then-spokesman Subcomandante Marcos openly discouraged voters from supporting him.

The EZLN took up arms on Jan. 1, 1994, the same day that the NAFTA came into effect. 

Since it began the far-left group has been in a declared war against government, military and corporate incursions into Chiapas. The EZLN in recent years has focused on a strategy of civil resistance rather than violence.

Source: El Universal, El Sol de Mexico

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