Planning on flying into Mexico? Things could be getting better – or worse. NAIM (New Mexico International Airport) has been a controversial headline across Mexico this year, and even in some international news outlets. But why is the airport, now under construction, so important and how will it impact travelers, both from home and abroad?
Mexico is climbing up the World Tourism Organization’s ranks and is the 6th most-visited country in the world. Most of Mexico’s traffic passes through Mexico City International Airport (AICM) but this airport has been operating over capacity for years.
After more than 20 years of planning, NAIM is finally under construction. NAIM was outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s key project but President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who takes the reins of office on Dec. 1, has spoken against the airport’s current location and placed NAIM’s fate in the hands of the Mexican people.
From Oct. 25-28, the country will hold a public consultation to decide whether NAIM will continue construction at its current venue on the Lake of Texcoco or if AMLO’s alternative proposal, the Santa Lucia military airbase, will win out.
What the ballot says:
- Recondition the current AICM and the Toluca International Airport, as well as construct two air strips at the Santa Lucia Air Base
- Continue with the construction of the NAIM on the basin of Lake of Texcoco and stop using AICM
How the debate breaks down:
Is the public consultation legal or not?
- According to the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), its illegal. The CCE says it does not comply with the Public Consultation Law and the Fra. VIII of the 35 article in the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States.
- But Jiménez Espriú, the incoming Minister of Communications and Transport (SCT), says that it is legal even if it is not included in the law. It is a personal decision of President-elect AMLO.
What will happen to the Mexican Economy?
- José Ángel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD, says that canceling the project would play with the appetite of foreign investors and create uncertainty for future investment.
- More than 70 percent of the funds needed for the project have already been secured and a lot of the money is coming from international investors, as well as bonds and a REIT-type instrument for infrastructure financing in the Mexican stock market.
- AMLO holds his position that there will not be an economic crisis if NAIM is not constructed as planned. The new government will address the companies that won contracts to ensure economic stability. “There are not many companies working at the Lake of Texcoco, there are five large companies. I will talk with the companies to follow up on their contracts,” AMLO said in a social media video.
The Pros and Cons of Santa Lucia, Toluca and AICM:
- The incoming government says building in Santa Lucia, Toluca and repurposing AICM will be carry much lower costs than NAIM but that there is not enough information to say precisely.
- College of Civil Engineering (CICM): MX$385.7 billion
- It will take time to plan the expansion of Santa Lucia and adapt the Toluca Airport, as well as restructuring the financing of the projects and ensuring connectivity between the three with the rest of the country and the city.
- From an aeronautical point of view, the operation of Santa Lucia is unviable due to interference in air space, ultimately limiting the transit capacity from AICM.
The Pros and Cons of NAIM
- CICM: MX$232.2 billion
- México Evalúa: MX$285 billion
- The Lake of Texcoco is an ancient lakebed with a complicated subsoil for construction, it has increased the price of the airport and caused delays in construction times.
- The College of Geologist Engineers says that there has been unrapable damage to the subsoil due to inadequate processes taken to stabilize it. It is viable but they need to improve the soil and its surroundings.
A big factor impacting the fate of NAIM is the assurance of transparency and the mitigation of corruption related to the project.
- IMCO said that of 320 contracts for NAIM, 157 were awarded directly and 59 through a restricted invitation.
- The negotiation for the lands surrounding the project have been a great source of conflict and organizations against the project have taken action due to what they say are wrongful negotiations and the impact it will have on the environment.
Want more information?
- Citibanamex released a neutral report on the possible future of Mexico’s new airport. Read it here.
- Interested in voting? Find your nearest voting station here
- Want official information on the consulta, scroll through here
Sources: El Heraldo, SCT, Mexico Evalua, AMLO website, MITRE, CICM, CMIC