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Insight

Santa Lucia and the NAIM Cancellation Odyssey

Mon, 08/07/2017 - 12:35

The Peña Nieto administration announced the NAIM project with much fanfare. However, President López Obrador’s decision to cancel the infrastructure project generated a noticeable backlash among investors, leading his own team to acknowledge that the way the project was canceled was a mistake. 

Despite López Obrador’s landslide election victory, his decision to organize a public consultation months before being sworn in as president to decide whether to cancel or to continue with the construction of NAIM was heavily criticized by members of the private sector and the general public.

According to the president, the NAIM project was plagued by corruption scandals and was not technically viable. “In that lake, we were always going to suffer from sinking and maintenance was going to cost us a lot,” he said. After the project was canceled and in an attempt to offer certainty to investors and all parties involved in its construction, AMLO assured that companies that already had construction contracts for NAIM would participate in the construction of the Santa Lucia Airport, his proposed alternative.

The use of the Santa Lucia military base as a new international airport to replace NAIM had been a long- in-the-making strategy for AMLO and his team. The president has already stated that the Santa Lucia airport will be administered by the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) and that it would follow regulations established by the Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT). The economic benefits stemming from operating the airport would be transferred to SEDENA and used to strengthen the ministry’s operation.

Although Santa Lucia appears to be a done deal, members of the private sector are still not content with the way the decision was taken. Ricardo Salinas, a member of President López Obrador’s Business Advisory Council, said the president made a mistake when he canceled NAIM and that he is promoting policies that are destined to fail. Salinas’ declarations were quickly answered by Javier Jiménez Espriu, Minister of SCT, who assured the business community that the government would present a document where it would explain the logic behind NAIM’s cancellation. Still, Alfonso Romo, Head of the Presidency Office, said the decision to cancel NAIM had alienated the private sector and acknowledged that the way in which the decision had been taken had not been optimal.