The consortium formed by Operadora Cicsa, by Carlos Slim, and FCC Construcción won the contract to carry out the second section of the Maya Train. A total of 235 kilometers of railroad has brought together the President of Mexico and the richest man in the country. The project that will bring billionaire Carlos Slim and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador into partnership is the second stretch of the controversial Tren Maya in the country’s southeastern region, after two of Slim’s companies were awarded a contract for 18,500 million pesos (774 million dollars). The train marks Slim’s first major investment in a government project during this administration after the cancellation of construction of the airport in Texcoco and demands for an unfinished pipeline eroded the relationship between him and López Obrador.
The works of the railway contract will begin this week. “The ‘Engineer’ thinks that developing the southeast is of utmost importance,” said Slim family spokesman Arturo Elías Ayub, referring to his father-in-law. “Investing in infrastructure is essential to boost this lagging area. The margins in this type of project are always small, but it is important to do it ”. The Presidency’s office did not respond to a request for comment. The section of the train being built by Slim’s companies, Operadora Cicsa and Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, runs from the town of Escárcega to Calkiní, in the state of Campeche. They are 235 kilometers of an old railroad that must be reconditioned to have modern rolling stock. The Maya Train, an important project for López Obrador, as he is trying to drive growth in a less developed part of Mexico, has been controversial from the start. A few weeks before taking office, at the end of 2018, he made a consultation to decide if he was going ahead with the project. Although 89.9 percent of those who voted said yes, only 1 percent of the population of Mexico participated in the elections.
Meanwhile, in a consultation carried out in December last year, a total of 93,142 Mexican indigenous people in the states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Yucatán voted for ‘yes’ during the consultation on the construction of the Maya Train , which represents 92.3 percent of the voters. The route through which the train passes houses many indigenous groups who fear that the project will serve to attract tourists but do little for them. Its leaders say the law requires that such an undertaking must include a specific referendum for indigenous groups. The complete railway line will extend for 1,460 kilometers, will cross five Mexican states and could transport more than 8,000 passengers per day, in addition to cargo. It will pass through some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, such as Cancun and Tulum. Chiapas, one of the states that the train will cross, has the highest proportion of people living in extreme poverty in all of Mexico, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi). Environmentalists are concerned about the impact a project of this size will have on the fragile ecosystem. The route is home to roughly 800 to 1,200 jaguars, an already endangered species, according to Panthera, a New York-based nonprofit. The train will also include a stop near the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, one of the largest protected areas in Mexico, which would require the construction of hotels, restaurants and other accommodation for a large influx of visitors.
Experts also fear that it is not profitable, but López Obrador argues that the train is a “social” project aimed at boosting the economy of the Yucatan peninsula, creating jobs and infrastructure that will reduce emigration. Slim’s companies will start work this week. The once richest man in the world, Slim now ranks 20th on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a fortune of $ 44.4 billion. All in all, he is by far the wealthiest person in Mexico. Most of their money comes from telecommunications, but their empire also spans the construction, banking, and mining sectors.
Source: El Financiero