Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Democracy in action?

Is this a sign that the economic elite in Mexico no longer control government expenditures?

Mexico's incoming president says he'll cancel partially built $13-billion airport
Buoyed by the results of a controversial nationwide referendum, Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday that his administration will cancel construction of a partially completed, $13-billion international airport and instead move forward with plans for a less expensive alternative.
Texcoco airport project
“The decision is to abide by the mandate of citizens,” the president-elect, who assumes office on Dec. 1, said at a news conference. “This is democracy.”

The revised plan, he said, would save Mexican taxpayers the equivalent of more than $5 billion.

But abandoning the new airport in the Texcoco area northeast of Mexico City also means the loss of some $5 billion that already has been spent on the project. The airport in Texcoco, which would have been the third largest commercial airport in the world, is about one-third complete…

The entire modified project — including rail connections between the various airfields — should be completed in three years, the president-elect vowed, and will resolve the gridlock at Mexico City’s over-burdened current airport…

Lopez Obrador was defiant Monday when asked about his decision's potential impact on Mexico's financial markets and business interests. In his administration, he said, no "pressures" would be tolerated from economic elites.

"What I would say to those corrupt businessmen and contractors is that they get used to it, that they take a mental exercise, an exercise in adaptation," the president-elect said, a day after voters rejected the Texcoco project. "The decision that the citizens took yesterday is rational, democratic and efficient."

The new plan puts Mexico’s new leftist president at odds with much of the country’s business and investor community, which largely backed completing the Texcoco project. Supporters said the expansive facility planned for Texcoco would draw additional visitors, investment and businesses to Mexico, while providing a vital transport hub…

But critics had assailed the Texcoco project as a corruption-plagued boondoggle and environmental calamity for the dry lake bed where the facility is being built.

The president-elect’s decision was anticipated after Mexicans voted overwhelmingly in a four-day referendum, or “consultation,” to scrap the Texcoco airport and pursue the more economical option.

Critics called the referendum a farce engineered by Lopez Obrador, who has long assailed the Texcoco project as too costly and laden with corruption…

There was no immediate reaction from the Texcoco project’s major builders, among them a construction firm owned by billionaire Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man. Slim’s son-in-law, Fernando Romero, is one of the architects of the futuristic new airport in Texcoco.

But a business group said in a news conference that construction at Texcoco would continue until at least Nov. 30, the last day of the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The Texcoco airport is the outgoing president’s signature infrastructure project.

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