By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
After ranting and raving throughout most of his campaign and the five months after his July 1 landslide leading up to his Dec. 1 inauguration, about the imperative need to cancel a half-built international airport on the lakebed of Texcoco, in the State of Mexico (Edoméx) to serve Mexico City’s over-extended Benito Juárez International Airport (not to mention holding a costly and controversial referendum even before taking office to prove he had the “people’s blessing” to proceed with the decision), Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) seemed to reverse himself, at least partially, during his first full working day in office on Monday, Dec. 3.
During a rather ambiguous meeting with media representatives early Monday morning, AMLO seemingly said (he was extremely vague and evasive when asked repeatedly for a straight answer) that, for now, construction will continue on the controversial project for “legal and financial reasons.”
After leaks to the Mexican media on Sunday, Dec. 2, by the Mexico City Airport Group (GACM), which is a collective of corporations involved in the construction of the $13 billion project, that construction on the New International Mexican Airport (NAIM) will proceed while the issue of its cancelation is being “re-evaluated,” the Mexican Finance Secretariat released a statement late Sunday night stating that it would buy back at least $1.8 billion of the $6 billion in international bonds issued to fund its construction.
According to companies involved in the construction, the airport is already nearly 40 percent completed.
The Finance Secretariat announcement – although not confirmed directly by the new president, who artfully dodged any committal statements one way or the other – did have a positive effect on the Mexican-peso parity, bringing the exchange rate to just over 20 pesos per dollar.
That rate at the close of the day on Friday, Nov. 30, just prior to AMLO’s inauguration the following day, was hovering at just below 21 pesos to the dollar.
There was also a surge in the Mexican Bolsa de Valores stock exchange on Monday.
Immediately after AMLO announced the cancelation of the airport, the peso-dollar exchange tumbled to above the psychologically critical 20 to 1 rate, there was a steep drop in the Bolsa and, JPMorgan Chase downgraded the country’s predicted growth rate from 2.4 percent to 1.9 percent.
AMLO told reporters Monday that he would have more precise information regarding the fate of the airport on Tuesday, Dec. 4.
All we can say is: Stay tuned.