Mexican residents of Jalisco are getting the chance to have their say on the future of the new Mexico City Airport in a four-day national referendum that began Thursday, October 25.
More than 32,000 voting stations have been installed in public spaces throughout the nation to allow the public to make a choice between continuing work on the high-cost Texcoco airport (around one-quarter finished, according to constructors) or scrapping that project in favor of transforming a military airfield in the capital into a commercial one, while maintaining operations at the current airport.
The vote has been organized by the transition team of President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador without any participation by the federal election agency, INE.
Voting stations were set up Thursday in the Jalisco municipalities of Guadalajara, Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, Tlajomulco, Tonalá, El Salto, Puerto Vallarta and Ciudad Guzman. Principal polling places in Guadalajara are the Plaza Liberation, Avenida Chapultepec and the central divider between Avenida La Paz and Calle Libertad. The main one in Zapopan will be located in the Plaza de las Américas (Juan Pablo II), in front of the Basilica. Citizens only need to show their INE voter credential in order to vote.
Lopez Obrador went to vote Thursday but did not mark his ballot, announcing that he would remain unbiased and respect the decision of the people.
Critics of the exercise say the result will be meaningless, since less than two percent of the electorate is expected to cast a vote. In addition, organizers have been criticized for failing to set up voting stations in the nation’s airports – exactly where people who will be directly affected by the referendum are to be found.
Although surveys have shown that some two-thirds of Mexico’s population want the $US13 billion Texcoco airport to continue, the result is far from a foregone conclusion. Lopez Obrador campaigned on scrapping the airport but has moderated his views since winning the election, even suggesting that the private sector should take over the remaining financing.
The country’s business sector is aghast that a project they consider to be a necessity for maintaining the nation’s international competitiveness should be in danger of collapse. Bloomberg reported this week that the bill for ditching the airport could run as high as US$10.48 billion, or 0.88 percent of gross domestic product, if the government is required to prepay the current debt related to the project -- bonds, a bank credit and a 30-percent cancellation fee.