Mexico court blocks airport project in blow to AMLO

Mexico City (AFP) –


A judge in Mexico has ordered President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's government to halt construction on a new airport and preserve work on a rival project he tried to scrap, activists said Monday.

The ruling is a blow to the leftist leader known as "AMLO," who campaigned against his predecessor's "pharaonic" and "corruption-plagued" $13-billion airport for Mexico City.

He wants to replace it with a cheaper -- but highly controversial -- alternative, converting an existing airbase into a second airport for the capital.

The decision by the court in the central state of Mexico freezes construction at the Santa Lucia airbase until the government shows it has "all necessary permits," said a collective of activists and business groups that filed 147 separate complaints to block the project on environmental, safety and other grounds.

The ruling also orders the government not to tear down the work already done on the rival project in the suburb of Texcoco, which was one-third complete.

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December, scrapped the Texcoco project after holding a referendum on the issue that was plagued by irregularities.

The decision sparked outrage among investors, including the project's chief backer, the telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim.

Slim, the world's fifth-richest person according to Forbes magazine, warned that canceling the project would amount to "canceling the economic growth of the country."

Mexico City's current airport is aging poorly and badly saturated: last year it handled nearly 48 million passengers, despite an official capacity of 32 million.

The Texcoco airport would have replaced it entirely. The $4 billion Santa Lucia project would supplement it, giving the capital two airports.

Lopez Obrador said Friday the lawsuits against the Santa Lucia project were part of a media campaign against him by people who were "upset" over losing "their little business deal."