Former president Vicente Fox has hit out at the decision to cancel the new Mexico City International Airport, charging that it is at odds with the incoming government’s austerity push.
In a statement issued yesterday, the ex-National Action Party (PAN) leader said that by scrapping the US $14-billion project, president-elect López Obrador has fulfilled his first campaign promise but asserted that it comes at the expense of the Mexican people.
“The cancellation of the new airport will cause the loss of 120 billion pesos [US $5.9 billion], a conservative estimate, because there will be contractors that will surely go to court to recover their investment,” Fox wrote.
“In addition, there is 60 billion that has already been paid, of which 45 billion is impossible to recover. See how it is useless to boast of austerity, when a public works project is being thrown away,” he continued.
Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, also addressed the decision to eliminate pensions for past presidents, a López Obrador campaign promise that lawmakers decreed by the official federal gazette this week.
Past presidents were entitled to a monthly pension of just over 205,000 pesos (US $10,000) not including other benefits.
“My position is firm and secure: if it is for the good of Mexico, I gladly give up my pension. If it means that my country will have significant growth in its economic resources, I gladly relinquish it,” Fox wrote.
Fox went on to outline a range of expenses to which the new government has committed, including higher pensions for the elderly and disabled and scholarships for students, pointing out that it will also have to pay interest on external debt and allocate money to the states, among other costs.
“If taking away my pension helps significantly to meet these challenges, great! Or if it helps to make a difference to the extreme poverty rate, even better!” the ex-president wrote.
Fox said that “apparently this government-elect is prepared to pull down what is already successful,” adding that it needs to learn the difference between “governing appropriately and viscerally dismantling.”
In closing, Fox declared: “my commitment will never change, with or without pension, it will always be the same. I will continue to work . . . for Mexico and its people.”
López Obrador, who will take office on December 1, has already announced a range of personal austerity measures he intends to adopt as president.
They include largely forgoing personal security, flying on commercial airlines rather than the presidential plane — which he has pledged to sell — and receiving a salary less than half that paid to President Peña Nieto.
Both houses of Congress, controlled since September by the coalition led by López Obrador’s Morena party, have also thrown their support behind austerity measures that include cutting salaries of politicians and other government officials.
López Obrador confirmed last week that the airport would be canceled after a public consultation found 70% support to kill the project and instead build two new runways at the Santa Lucía Air Force Base and upgrade the existing Mexico City airport and that in Toluca.
In contrast to Fox’s claim, the president-elect said this week that the companies that have been building the new airport will not take legal action against the incoming government over the decision to cancel the project.