Favourite for Mexican presidency vows to cancel $13bn international airport

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (pictured), the populist leftwing politician who is favourite to win Mexico’s presidential election next year, has reiterated his campaign pledge to cancel construction of the $13bn international airport that is the flagship project of the government of Enrique Peña Nieto.

Obrador repeated his promise at a campaign rally in Mexico State on Sunday, 30 April. He said the scheme was being built on the wrong site – a dry lake bed – and that it was plagued by corruption.

The leader of the Movement for National Regeneration, or Morena, said: "This airport being built in Texcoco is not technically feasible; it’s going to sink. When Morena wins the election we’re going to cancel this massive project and put an end to the corruption that surrounds it. We’re going to use the money to create jobs and boost education for our youth."

He added that major contracts were being awarded to people who had links with the governing party of Peña Nieto, and that as a result the "pharaonic" airport was "the scam of the century".

Obrador, who is better known by his nickname AMLO, was head of Mexico City council from 2000 to 2006 and ran for president in 2006 and 2012. According to polls published in El Universal newspaper last month, Obrador is on 33%, six points ahead of Margarita Zavala, the wife of former president Felipe Calderon.

He has run a campaign based on tackling inequality and corruption, and has also stressed immigrants’ rights, thereby benefiting from a wave of opposition to the anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump.

Writing in the Washington Post, Obrador commented: "If the offensive against Obamacare failed, the trashing of the free-trade agreement between Mexico and the US turned out to be unfeasible, and the building of the border wall was mired in budgetary, legal, technical and even environmental problems, the new administration could at least move to criminalise and persecute migrant workers - and that is what it did."

The planned international airport was announced by Peña Nieto in September 2014. It is to replace Benito Juárez International Airport, the busiest in Latin America, which is at capacity. If it does go ahead, it will have one 560,000 sq m terminal and six runways. The architects are Foster + Partners and Fernando Romero, the son-in-law of billionaire Carlos Slim. Construction is expected to take eight years.

If it is cancelled, Obrador is proposing to relieve congestion by adding two runways at the Santa Lucia military airport at a cost of $1.6bn.

Image: The Morena candidate has benefited from Trump’s election in the north (YouTube)

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