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Highlight of the Week
Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s decision to put the fate of a new Mexico City airport up to a vote could carry steep political costs.
The president-elect this week offered details on public consultations that from Oct. 25-28 will let Mexicans have a say in whether to continue with a $13-billion project already underway on the Texcoco lakebed. Transition officials say López Obrador will use the results to make a final decision on the project. His proposed alternative is to adapt the Santa Lucía military base for commercial flight, to use in conjunction with the city’s existing airport.
Some experts believe the Santa Lucía proposal is technically unviable, and worry that scrapping the current project – which officials say is over 30 percent complete – would send a negative signal to investors. IMCO, a think tank, estimates canceling the project could cost more than $6 billion.
But López Obrador’s campaign-trail criticism of the Texcoco project makes its continuation politically fraught: Exorbitant costs, concerns over environmental impact and perceptions that the new airport will mostly benefit Mexico’s elite give the project outsize symbolic importance. The president-elect promised impartiality ahead of the consultation, though this week he and his team extolled the virtues of the Santa Lucía option.
Recent polls suggest Mexicans may opt for Texcoco anyway. That, and a promise to reduce costs if the current project survives, could give López Obrador an out. But it would anger local community groups who are calling on López Obrador to cancel the current project outright. Seatbelts please.
What they’re saying: a new report from México Evalúa looks at contracts and public spending on the airport and other major infrastructure projects; Joaquín López-Dóriga on the significance of the airport debate; Enrique Quintana on why the Santa Lucía proposal could win out.
López Obrador pledged to recruite an additional 50,000 young people to the military and federal police in an effort to tackle record levels of crime and violence. He said his austerity plan and savings from reducing corruption would pay for the increase.
The announcement, made during a thank-you tour stop in Mexico State, came days after transition officials canceled a series of public forums on security that had been scheduled to take place in coming weeks. Several previous forums, designed to solicit opinion from the public on how to reduce crime and homicide, have been met with protests by victims of violence and their families.
Alfonso Durazo, López Obrador’s pick to head a re-booted public security department, said the forums had been suspended so that the transition team could focus on firming up its security strategy, which officials say will be ready later this month.
What they’re saying: Eunice Rendón on the value of AMLO’s security forums; Javier Risco criticizes the cancelations in El Financiero; Carlos Puig in Milenio asks how the administration will pay for more police.
López Obrador said his administration would not include fracking in its effort to increase oil and gas production.
Teachers’ unions clashed violently at a public education forum in Acapulco hosted by AMLO’s pick for education secretary, Esteban Moctezuma. Moctezuma said the forums would go on as scheduled despite the incident.
Tabasco’s state legislature, where AMLO’s Morena party holds the majority, passed a law making it easier to assign some public works contracts directly to developers.
Quote of the Week
“I’m betting on Houston for their Latin ballplayers, and the Dodgers for their Mexican fan base.”
Andrés Manuel López Obrador made his picks for baseball’s World Series, which begins later this month. He declined an offer via Twitter from the general manager of the Houston Astros to attend a playoff game next week, citing commitments in Mexico.
Russell is AQ’s correspondent in Mexico City