EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Several El Paso activism organizations are worried about what they say is a brewing social and environmental crisis in southern Mexico.
Members of local labor, immigration and women’s groups gathered Friday in front of the Mexican Consulate in El Paso to protest alleged harassment of Indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico, with the intent of displacing them to make way for the multibillion-dollar Maya Train project.
“We are very worried about what is going on in Indian communities in Chiapas,” said El Paso labor advocate Guillermo Glen. “They have built successful, peaceful communities with schools and clinics under the leadership of the Zapatistas, but the local government has empowered paramilitary groups that are moving in on them.”
The Maya Train is a project of the Lopez Obrador administration that would lay hundreds of miles of tracks in the Yucatan Peninsula and in Chiapas – a state with jungles, forests and many natural and wildlife attractions. The train would cater to American, European and Mexican tourists.
Glen said activists from the U.S. and Europe are trying to assist autonomous Indian communities born out of a 1994 armed rebellion led by the Zapatista National Liberation Army. The rebels gave up their arms and manage at least five towns in the middle of jungles and mountains.
The activists said the train not only will displace some communities, but also lure many to leave their farms and homes to work menial jobs in the tourism industry. In addition, it will cut through swaths of pristine landscape, they said.
Glen said a paramilitary unit allegedly working for private investors in Chiapas recently kidnapped two Zapatista town officials. He said they were freed after a priest negotiated their release.
The consulate had no comment on the protest or the activists’ allegations.