Whiff of Panic After Mexico Votes to Scrap Mega-Airport & Corruption Project

Now everything is up in the air, so to speak.

The results are finally in from one of the most controversial voting exercises ever held in Mexico. The people — albeit a tiny fraction of the whole electorate — have voted to scrap a new $13-billion airport for the capital that is almost one-third finished, at least $4 billion over budget, and mired in allegations of corruption and lack of transparency, dealing a hefty blow to some of Mexico’s richest business leaders, foreign construction companies, and the global lenders that have helped finance the project.

Roughly a million people, just over 1% of Mexico’s electorate, participated in the four-day voting exercise. They were asked whether the next government should finish the new airport, called NAIM, to replace Mexico City’s inadequate inner-city hub, or add two runways to convert a military air base in Santa Lucia (30 miles north of the capital) and keep the current airport. Almost 70% of voters chose the latter option.

The NAIM project has come under a barrage of criticism for a host of reasons beyond corruption and chronic lack of transparency, including concerns about the airport’s choice of location — a drained former lake bed — and what it might mean for the structure’s stability, especially in such a highly active earthquake zone, as well as for the region’s water supply, which according to Oxfam is at crisis levels already, due largely to the government’s predilection for mega-projects

Dubbed a “public consultation,” the vote was non-binding and marred with serious irregularities. Despite that, Mexico’s leftist president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who called for the referendum and is against the new airport, has vowed to respect the result, putting him on collision course with some very powerful business interests…

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