Mexico to test $13bn airport plan with vote, opinion polls


Advisers to Mexico’s next president are starting to share a few details on this month’s public consultation on whether to proceed with the construction of a $13 billion airport for the nation’s capital.
The unorthodox process will be carried out in two ways: a national face-to-face survey and a vote, Jesus Ramirez, spokesman for incoming president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said in a radio interview with Radio Formula. Both will be funded by the transition team’s budget, Ramirez said, without providing cost estimates.
Given the limited distribution of polling stations, it will be difficult for the result to be demographically representative, said political analyst Lorena Becerra, who’s also the head of polling at newspaper Reforma.
“Even if the face-to-face polling is done with the proper technical and methodological criteria, they’ll have to figure out how to interpret the results and combine them with the voting results,” she said. “It’s unusual that they’re choosing to mix the two.”‘
The incoming president has made the future of the airport one of the key issues of his campaign and now transition period before taking office December 1. Before the election in July, Lopez Obrador said the project was a waste of taxpayer’s money and mired in corruption and he said that construction should stop. He hedged his position once he won, saying the people should decide the project’s future.

With the consultation, “the political responsibility of the decision will no longer rest on the president-elect,” Becerra said in an interview. “I suppose that was always the idea.”
Lopez Obrador’s chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, said the airport construction would continue as planned, regardless of the vote. Speaking to a group of about 80 investors, he said he didn’t think many people would vote and that the project already had investor capital, according to a report in Reforma.
The vote will be held the last week of October and will be carried out by an unnamed group close to the transition team, spokesman Ramirez said. At least 530 of the most populated municipalities will be consulted, he said. The Arturo Rosenblueth Foundation will be in charge of counting votes and civil society observers will act as monitors.
Ending the airport project would mean using the congested existing hub and adding two runways to a nearby military base, a plan that experts have deemed non-viable. In July, the group in charge of the construction indefinitely suspended four tenders until the incoming administration resolves the project’s future.
The construction itself is still ongoing, the group has said.
“They’re asking an average citizen to make a decision about a highly complicated and meticulous matter,” Becerra said. “This should be decided by the government, advised
by experts.”

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