Mexico to hold “referendum’ on $8bn Yucatan tourist train

Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said this week he would hold a country-wide vote on whether to build a major new railway across the Yucatan peninsula, home of the ancient Mayan civilisation.

The country appears to be developing a taste for deciding on major infrastructure schemes by direct ballot; last month, another poll cancelled the one-third complete Mexico City international airport.

Obrador said he planned to hold the vote over 24-25 November to decide whether to go ahead with his proposal for the Yucatan railway, which would connect the main tourist attractions on the peninsula at a cost of between $6bn and $8bn.

He assumes office on 1 December, so it won’t be an official state referendum, but rather a poll conducted by a private nonprofit, the Rosenblueth Foundation, reports The New York Times.

Nine other of his proposed projects will also be voted on in the plebiscite, Obrador said during a trip to Merida, the capital of Yucatan state.

The Mayan train would run 1,500km across five states, which Obrador said would share some of the economic boom enjoyed by the peninsula’s beach resorts and archaeological sites with poorer, more remote parts of the south.

Obrador said: "It’s a very important work because it is going to communicate one of the most culturally important regions in the world. There is not in other parts of the world a region with as much cultural richness as this region of flowering of the great Mayan culture."

The project is an extension of an existing plan to build a 900km line through Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco. Finance would come from funds collected through Mexico’s tourism tax, which amount to about $370m a year.

Another project on the ballot will be construction of an oil refinery, also in Obrador’s home state of Tabasco, as well as social programmes to give scholarships to students and state pensions for the elderly.

Obrador will take office on 1 December.

Image: The temple of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza in the Yucatan (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/CC BY-SA 3.0)

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