The president-elect’s honeymoon with Mexico’s private sector may be over before it has even properly started! Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that he will respect voters’ decision taken in last weekend’s referendum to scrap the partially-built US$13 billion new Mexico City airport in favor of upgrading the capital’s existing facility and transforming the Santa Lucia military airfield into a commercial operation.
Lopez Obrador’s decision to put the future of the new airport to a public vote was criticized by leaders of the country’s business and industrial community, who said such matters should be taken by politicians based on serious expert and technical input. However, almost 70 percent of one million Mexican citizens who participated in the four-day referendum rejected the Tecoxco option, where work is said to be almost one-quarter complete. The employers’ grouping Coparmex complained the vote was rigged in favor of Santa Lucia, adding that no mechanisms were put in place to prevent people voting more than once. Coparmex had expressed fears that investor confidence in Mexico would be seriously harmed should Tecoxco be ditched.
Mexico’s peso lost around three percent of its value against the dollar following Lopez Obrador’s announcement Monday. Share prices on the Bolsa de Valores (Mexican Stock Exchange) also dropped sharply.
Lopez Obrador said Tuesday that he would consult with the federal government to ensure an orderly halt to works at the Tecoxco site. He doesn’t take office until December 1.
The president-elect said he hopes arrangements can be made so contractors working at the Tecoxco airport will be able to continue their labors at the new site. He estimated that switching to the Santa Lucia option would save the federal government close to 100 billion pesos ($US5 billion).
He also announced plans to turn the Tecoxco site – which lies on a dried-up lake bed – into an ecological park.