Construction of the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA). Photo: Google

By MARK LORENZANA 

The Mexican federal government illegally appropriated 91.5 hectares of private land to build the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA).

The Tenth Collegiate Court in Administrative Matters confirmed on June 3 of this year the protection granted to the heirs of Raúl Romero Zenizo, who proved to be the legitimate owners of two pieces of land in the municipality of Nextlalpan in the State of Mexico (Edoméx), for which they now demand compensation.

In June of 2021, the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) started expropriating 109 hectares of private property in Edoméx to be used for the construction of the AIFA, one of AMLO’s controversial pet projects.

Eminent domain or expropriation refers to the power of the government to take private property and convert it into public use.

Despite being private property, Román Meyer — secretary of the Mexican government’s Secretariat of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development (Sedatu) — declared that the land was national property and then transferred it to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) in April 2019, without having gone through an expropriation process and without awarding proper compensation to the owners.

In the judgment of the trial, it is stated that Sedena later admitted, in a letter addressed to Sedatu on June 6, 2019, that the land was private property.

On July 12 of this year, lawyers for the family that won the injunction for the land appropriation asked current Fifth District Judge for Administrative Matters Sandra de Jesús Zúñiga to order the Mexican federal government to pay compensation for the expropriated properties, since they cannot be returned to the original owners, as construction of the AIFA is mostly complete.

The compensation process, however, could take months or even years, since Sedatu could try a new demarcation procedure to question whether the family is the true owner of the property, and there could also be a dispute between the parties on the amount of the payment.

Meanwhile, in another case of eminent domain, López Obrador decreed on Monday, Aug. 1, the expropriation of 36 private properties with an area of ​​more than 109 hectares for the construction of the contentious Section 5 of the Tren Maya, another one of AMLO’s controversial projects.

AMLO ordered Sedatu to take care of the compensation for the expropriated land, in accordance with the appraisals that will be issued by the Institute of Administration and Appraisals of National Assets (Indabin) on the affected private properties.

This order by López Obrador came as the First District Judge in Yucatan, Adrián Fernando Novelo Pérez, granted a second definitive suspension against the works on Section 5 of the Tren Maya.

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