The people have spoken: Mexico City’s US $15-billion airport project will be canceled in favor of converting an air force base and upgrading the existing airport and that in Toluca, capital of México state following a vote that concluded yesterday.
Of just over one million citizens who voted in the four-day public consultation, 69.9% chose the option to build two new runways at the Santa Lucía military base and recondition the other two airports.
The results were announced at a press conference yesterday by incoming government spokesman Jesús Ramírez and Enrique Calderón Alzati, president of the Arturo Rosenblueth Foundation, which organized the consultation and counted the votes.
Only 311,132 people, or 29.1% of all participants, voted for the current project to continue.
In contrast, almost 750,000 people supported the new proposal.
More than 10,000 people who voted in the 538 municipalities where polling stations were set up spoiled their ballots, Calderón said.
The only state where the Texcoco option won was Nuevo Léon. In Mexico City, which recorded the highest voter turnout, citizens voted almost two-to-one in favor of Santa Lucía.
Ramírez said that none of the deficiencies reported in the consultation process, such as proof that some people voted more than once, had affected the outcome.
“. . . The results are very clear . . . What we want to highlight is the enormous citizen participation, the happiness with which they showed up to vote,” he said, stressing that the results “will be definitive.”
“Mexicans can rest assured that he [López Obrador] will keep his word and that no economic interest will be affected,” he said.
Karen Levy, an academic who contributed to the organization of the consultation, said the problems with the voting process were minimal and in no way did they alter the outcome.
She also said that it was the first time in recent history that a Mexican president would make a decision based on a citizen consultation process.
“With this exercise, it is proven that the nation is demanding space in which to make their voice heard and rejecting the old practice in which only a minority has the power to decide the future of the country,” Levy said.
The peso weakened by about 2% against the US dollar after the results were announced.
Despite the overwhelming support for the Santa Lucía option, the president of the Mexican Employers’ Federation (Coparmex) said yesterday that he hoped that López Obrador would announce today that the current project would continue.
“For the good of the country, we hope that the announcements regarding the airport will be sensible and appropriate, of continuity, and that the Texcoco project will be concluded . . . and that no fires that have to be put out later are lit,” Gustavo de Hoyos said.
However, López Obrador dashed that hope this morning, telling a press conference that “the decision that we have taken from the result of the public consultation . . . is to obey the mandate of the citizens and therefore two runways will be built at the Santa Lucía military airport.”
He added that the Mexico City and Toluca airports would also be reconditioned as proposed.
“In that way, we will solve the saturation of the current airport in Mexico City in a short time. The decision that the citizens made is rational, democratic and effective,” the president-elect declared.
López Obrador said the decision would be taken with “absolute respect to the rule of law,” adding that the interests of companies who are building and investing in the airport won’t be affected.
“. . . There are funds in the current [airport] trust that guarantee the contract and investment commitments and in addition to that . . . there is our moral and political authority to attend to any claim of companies or investors,” he said.
López Obrador also said that the incoming government received information from a “prestigious company” before the consultation started that the current airport and the air force base could operate concurrently.
“Building the new airport at Santa Lucía is viable, if you remember there was controversy, there were rulings in the sense that the current airport and Santa Lucía couldn’t operate [at the same time] due to aerial interference. It has been demonstrated that there is no technical problem, that the two airports can operate.”
López Obrador said that the cancelation of the Texcoco project will save the federal government around 100 billion pesos (US $5 billion) and that the Santa Lucía option would cost 70 billion pesos and be ready to start operations in three years.
“In three years, we will have definitively solved the saturation problem, the two runways needed at the airport will be built. We’re going to have an exclusive [highway] lane from Mexico City to Santa Lucía and the fast train to facilitate arrival from the city to Toluca,” he said.
Construction of the new airport is somewhere between 20% and 30% complete.