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Mexico’s incoming leftist government of President-Elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday opened polls for a referendum on whether or not to keep building a controversial new airport for the capital area, reports BSS/AFP.
The consultation is to last four days, with results expected on Sunday. The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador, who succeeds Enrique Pena Nieto on December 1, had threatened to cancel the multi-billion-dollar project, charging it was a waste of taxpayer money.
The soon-to-be president, a former Mexico City mayor, has also criticized the environmental impact of the project — whose estimated cost is more than $13 billion — and said it is marred by corruption.
“We’re talking about millions of pesos, we’re talking about corruption that could be avoided,” Lopez Obrador said Thursday before casting his own ballot in the capital.
But the vote has put him on a collision course with the business world, which says the new terminal is needed to ease woes at the aging current airport, which handled nearly 45 million passengers last year.
Lopez Obrador says instead of building a new terminal northeast of the capital, a military airbase south of the mega-city could be repurposed.
Mexican businessman Carlos Slim — who was number seven on Thursday in Forbes magazine’s real-time rankings of the world’s richest people, with a net worth of $67.1 billion — is the main investor in the airport. He has led the business community’s criticism of Lopez Obrador, who won the presidency in a resounding victory in July. “Canceling the project would amount to canceling the economic growth of the country,” Slim said in April. Slim’s construction company CICSA was awarded the $4.7 billion contract to build the airport’s terminal in consortium with six other companies.