Mexico’s president-elect pronounces cancellation of airport undertaking after ballot

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MEXICO CITY, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) — Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday announced the cancellation of a major new airport project after a public poll showed most Mexicans are against it.

“The decision obeys the people’s mandate,” Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, said during a televised press conference.

The project of Mexico City’s new international airport (NAIM) has been controversial in Mexico largely due to high cost. The result of the four-day binding nationwide poll released late Sunday showed 69.95 percent of more than 1 million voters opposed the project.

Voters in the poll opted for an alternative proposal to building the new airport on a dry lake bed in Texcoco. It is to expand and upgrade a military airport in Zumpango, while upgrading two other existing airports, the international airport of Mexico City and another in nearby Toluca.

The alternative solution will relieve the pressure on the Mexican capital’s airports in three years, according to Lopez Obrador.

Currently, around 20 percent of the NAIM project is completed instead of the 35 percent previously reported, Lopez Obrador has said.

The 13.3 billion U.S. dollar NAIM project was initiated by outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto. The new airport is planned to start operation in November 2020. Its construction began in 2016.

The national poll’s results have caused the concern that cancelling the NAIM project carries its own costs.

In response, Lopez Obrador said “the interests of the companies and the investors are safeguarded. There are funds, in the current trust, that cover the commitments in contracts and in investment.”

Mexico’s currency peso slid against the U.S. dollar following news of the poll’s results, and Lopez Obrador dismissed it as transient.

Juan Pablo Castanon, head of Mexico’s Business Coordinating Council (CCE) and a major NAIM proponent, said cancelling the project sent a “serious (message) of uncertainty” to the international market and investors.

“Infrastructure projects should generate confidence and certainty. There is distrust in a decision that changes so abruptly, such as today’s,” said Castanon.

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