Mexico seizes part of part railway line, sending in marines to take over

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government sent in marines Friday to take over part of a private railway line in southern Mexico.

It was not clear whether the seizure of the rail line on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec constituted an expropriation.

The government said it would compensate the owners for what it called the “temporary occupation” of the railway run by a Mexican company, Grupo Mexico Transportes.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador needs the rail line to fill out the rail-seaport network he is trying to build on the isthmus to connect Pacific coast ports with the Gulf of Mexico. He hopes to establish industrial parks and LNG terminals on the intercoastal route to spur development.

In a statement, the company said that “the surprising and unusual takeover of the installations by the armed forces is being analyzed by Grupo Mexico Transportes, its investors and advisers.”

The company said it was continuing to offer service on a roughly 60-mile (100 kilometer) stretch of the freight line, formally known as Ferrosur SA de CV. It said trains were running “with surveillance of the armed forces.”

The line runs between the railway junction of Medias Aguas to the Gulf coast port of Coatzacoalcos.

The government cited “public interest” in the takeover, a term usually used for expropriations. But the president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it was an expropriation.

López Obrador previously handed over control of the interoceanic rail corridor to the Mexico's navy.

It marked the second time this year that López Obrador's administration has seized ports or rail lines from private companies. In March, police and soldiers stormed in to seize a Caribbean coast seaport owned by an Alabama company, Vulcan Materials.

Authorities then used the seaport near Playa del Carmen to unload cargo from a Mexican cement and aggregates company, Cemex.

The U.S. State Department said after the port seizure that it was “concerned about the fair treatment of our companies in Mexico.”

“Cases like these have the potential to impact our ability to achieve our shared vision for improving livelihoods in one of Mexico’s most economically disadvantaged regions. It also impacts Mexico’s efforts to attract future investments,” the State Department said.

López Obrador has been publicly sparring with Vulcan for over a year. He needs the dock to get cement, crushed stone and other materials into the area to finish his pet project, a tourist train known as the Train Maya.

The 950-mile (1,500-kilometer) Maya Train line is meant to run in a rough loop around the Yucatan Peninsula, connecting beach resorts and archaeological sites.