Elements of the Mexican Army. Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA

Since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office nearly four years ago, the Mexican Armed Forces have not only increased their presence on the streets, but have also embarked on a new mission: to become successful entrepreneurs.

On April 13 of this year, Mexico’s Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit (SHCP) announced the creation of a majority state-owned company: the Airport, Railroad and Auxiliary Services Group Olmeca-Maya-Mexica, SA de CV. According to multi-focused economic analysis group México ¿Cómo Vamos? (MCV) the conglomerate — which is overseen by the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) — has an estimated asset value of 305.6 billion pesos, or about $15 billion.

The military consortium — aside from managing four international airports in the Mexican states of Chiapas and Quintana Roo — is in charge of building 1,500 kilometers of Tren Maya railways, a series of controversial tracks that have already expanded beyond the original three sections that was proposed when the project began. López Obrador has bestowed the Tren Maya project to Sedena, and announced in May of last year that the Mexican Army will receive all of the monetary benefits of the project.

Sedena also has jurisdictional handling over the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA). Both the Tren Maya and the AIFA are López Obrador’s pet megaprojects that have exceeded their original budget estimates.

According to projections by the economic group MCV, it will take the Mexican government around 17 years to recoup its investment on the Tren Maya project alone.

Adriana García, coordinator of economic analysis for MCV, says that entrusting important and costly government infrastructure projects to a military company is against the best interests of the public, as there is a lack of transparency on how taxpayers’ money is being used.

“The big question is: Who will take the brunt of the huge losses of these infrastructure works, which will surely be hemorrhaging taxpayers’ money?” García said.

García said that the recent rerouting and recalibrating of the Tren Maya routes have also added to the cost of the project, which could add to an even lower rate of return.

“The modifications to the project have not been considered in the beginning. But now these changes and additional expenses call into question whether the project has been financially viable in the first place,” García said.

Meanwhile, government sources informed Mexican daily newspaper Reforma on Monday, July 4, that Carlos Morán Moguel will step down as director of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) and will be replaced by Rear Admiral Carlos Ignacio Velázquez Tiscareño. Members of Mexico’s Navy Secretariat (Semar) have also confirmed the change in leadership.

For the past several months, 1,500 members of the Mexican Navy have already been carrying out security tasks at the AICM, which include tasks at customs and immigration of the airport.

Passengers have continued to encounter problems at the AICM, which include late arrivals, long wait times for checked luggage, delays at customs, lack of water and the banning of ride-hailing applications.

López Obrador, when asked by a journalist about the problems at the AICM at one of his daily morning press conferences, blamed “interest groups, corruption and many problems” that he had “inherited from the previous” administration for the issues creating bottlenecks at the AICM.

“I think this is a combination of several factors. We must understand that changes are taking place inside the airport. There was smuggling, there was the introduction of drugs and this doesn’t seem to me that the previous administration had full control of what was happening,” López Obrador said.

Since López Obrador began his term, the country has increasingly become militarized. The armed forces have overseen the covid-19 vaccine rollout,  have been put in charge of the distribution of textbooks and social resources, the building of 2,700 branches of Banco de Bienestar and the creation of military barracks all across Mexico. It is estimated that the Mexican Army is now in charge of 27 civilian duties under the AMLO government.

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