Breezing into Guadalajara this week, ten days before he ends his six-year presidential term, Enrique Peña Nieto was in no mood for modesty, despite having the dubious distinction of being the most unpopular president in recent memory.
Boasting that he had carried out 97 percent of his campaign promises, the president said Mexico was “better off” than six years ago, with “better infrastructure, progress and well-being.”
Peña Nieto also lauded his own role in “taking care of” Mexico’s economic stability, highlighting the four million jobs he says were created during his administration, and the $US10 billion obtained in direct foreign investment.
Several years ago, the president had probably marked this date to visit Guadalajara in his schedule as an important one. The city’s Tren Ligero (subway) was expected to be finished by now and he was no doubt relishing the chance of a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate one of the biggest and most expensive public works of his presidency.
Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval was surely also looking forward to the occasion for similar reasons – he has consistently cited the new subway line as one of his main legacies.
As it turned out, the two politicians, somewhat embarrassingly, had to be content with unveiling a plaque declaring the start of a six-month testing period for the Tren Ligero line. Because of construction delays, Mexico’s next president and Jalisco’s next governor will have the honor of inaugurating the new line.
And before Peña Nieto had even arrived in the city to “officially” launch the testing period, the Tren Ligero was making the headlines for other reasons.
Fingers were being pointed at the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) for construction defects that could set back the opening of the line even further than the summer of next year.
Jalisco Governor-elect Enrique Alfaro this week blasted the SCT for not picking up on defective “shock absorbers” that cushion the overhead rail line from the tall columns running through major city avenues. These are designed to reduce vibrations when the trains pass overhead.
Alfaro insisted that under no circumstance will he sign off on the completion of the project unless it is 100-percent safe.
An SCT spokesperson said 1,500 defective pieces will be replaced but stressed they do not constitute any danger and that the testing period will be able to proceed according to schedule. Referring to the defects, Peña Nieto said such problems are often par for the course when building such a major work.
The cost of replacing the defective parts is estimated at around $US3 million, according to Armando Brenes Moreno, director of the Jalisco College of Engineers.
The federally funded project, which runs from Zapopan to Tonala via the city center, is expected to cost in excess of $US1.2 billion, and is one of the largest infrastructure works undertaken in Mexico in the past decade.