On 1 June Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador formally launched the start of the construction of the first stretch of the 'Tren Maya' in the southern state of Quintana Roo.
The Tren Maya is one of the López Obrador administration’s flagship infrastructure development projects. While inaugurating the works, López Obrador claimed that the Tren Maya would bring extensive economic benefits to a neglected region of Mexico, but it is a contentious project. It has met with opposition from indigenous communities, who argue that they were not consulted about it, as well as environmental groups. López Obrador also faced criticism from the political opposition for commencing its construction at the height of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.
- López Obrador travelled to the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas, Quintana Roo state, to inaugurate the construction works. The Izamal-Cancún section of the Tren Maya will stretch 260km and is budgeted to cost M$27bn (US$1.23bn). The Tren Maya will eventually extend for 1,475km and pass through a further four states: Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas. It is estimated to cost in the region of US$7.4bn when all is said and done.
- Rogelio Jiménez Pons, the director of the Fondo Nacional de Fomento al Turismo (Fonatur), the federal government agency overseeing the project, said that the Tren Maya would alleviate poverty and provide nearly 1m jobs directly or indirectly by 2030.
- Jiménez Pons also maintained that the project would protect the environment. But many local indigenous communities contest this point. They argue that it will do irreparable damage to underground aquifers, providing essential water supplies for drinking and agriculture, and that the majority of the 197 indigenous communities that will be affected by the Tren Maya were not included in last December’s public consultation on the project.
López Obrador said work on the Izamal-Cancún section of the track would be completed within 28 months. He said that he would accept “no excuses” for any delay, insisting that it would be “finished on time and within budget”, a swipe at previous ‘neo-liberal’ governments for presiding over delayed projects with spiralling costs.
In brief: Unemployment in Mexico rises in April
* Mexico’s national statistics institute (Inegi) has released new figures which show the national unemployment rate was 4.7% in April, up by 1.7 percentage points on the previous month and 1.2 percentage points higher than in April 2019. In a video conference Inegi’s president, Julio Santaella, said that, in April, 12m people had stopped working or were seeking employment as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
In brief: Chile’s economic activity sees historic fall in April
* Chile’s central bank (BCCh) has released the figures of its monthly economic activity index (Imacec) for April, indicating a 14.1% drop in economic activity compared with April 2019. Finance Minister Ignacio Briones tweeted that this figure marks the largest fall in the Imacec since records began. Although the mining Imacec fell by only 0.1%, the non-mining Imacec plummeted by 15.5%, which the BCCh attributes to the impact of measures adopted to contain the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The most affected sectors were services (education, transport, restaurants, hotels, and corporate services) and trade. Lesser affected activities were construction and manufacturing. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac) has forecast that Chile’s GDP will contract by 4% in 2020.