A project of “mind-watering” magnitude in money and corruption.
The Mexican peso suffered its biggest rout in four months on Thursday, likely due to the realization dawning on market participants that the veteran populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (or AMLO) may win the presidential elections on July 1. AMLO has led all the polls in Mexico for well over a year and is still 15 points ahead of his closest rival. And now he’s threatening to put an end to the country’s most expensive public infrastructure project, Mexico City’s new airport, which has been plagued by corruption, scandals, and cost overruns since its inception four years ago.
AMLO’s latest pledge has aroused fits of apoplexy among Mexico’s business elite, many of whom stand to rake in large sums of money from the project — no one more so than Mexico’s richest man, Carlos Slim, who told journalistsin Mexico City this week that suspending the project “would mean suspending the country’s growth.’’ Slim urged AMLO to reconsider his opposition.
Slim’s concern is not wholly altruistic. Grupo Carso, one of his many construction companies, is deeply involved in the building project. Three big contracts allegedly worth 94 billion pesos ($5 billion) are in the hands of consortia led by Grupo Carso or other firms owned by Slim and his family.
The first tender that Slim’s family won was for the airport’s architectural design, which was awarded to a firm run by Fernando Romero, a Mexican architect who is married to one of Carlos Slim’s daughters. British architect Nigel Foster led the design project, for which Fernando Romero Enterprises was reportedly able to bill Mexico’s government a cool $1 billion…