Mexican president casts doubt on report of Singapore interest in airport project

by Reuters
Friday, 20 September 2019 15:19 GMT

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MEXICO CITY, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday he did not believe a media report that said Singapore was interested in finishing a new Mexico City airport project that he had canceled a few weeks before he took office in December.

Earlier this month, prominent Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola wrote in a column in El Universal newspaper that Singapore wanted to put forward a plan to Lopez Obrador that would enable the completion of the abandoned airport.

Located on the dried-out bed of Lake Texcoco on the eastern flank of the city, the airport was the biggest public works project begun by previous President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Citing diplomatic sources, Loret said the idea had arisen in the context of a visit that Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong could make to Mexico later this year.

Lopez Obrador cast doubt on that report when asked at a regular news briefing on Friday whether he would allow Singapore to finish the job.

"I don't think this proposal is true," he told reporters. "I think it's an opinion like many others. I don't think it's a serious proposal."

Lopez Obrador, a veteran leftist, scrapped the $13 billion airport on Oct. 29 on the basis of a controversial referendum.

He argued the project was tainted by corruption and geologically unsound, but the decision shocked many investors and wiped billions off the value of Mexican financial assets.

At the time, the outgoing Pena Nieto administration said the project was around 30% complete, though the incoming government said it was not that far advanced.

The cancelation of the airport fed concerns about Lopez Obrador's management of the economy, which narrowly avoided slipping into recession in the first half of 2019.

As an alternative, Lopez Obrador wants to convert a military base in Santa Lucia north of the city into a commercial airport. However, construction on that project has been held back by a raft of legal injunctions to prevent it going ahead.

Lopez Obrador told the news conference that the lawsuits against the Santa Lucia project were being dealt with and that there would soon be "no legal obstacle" to its construction. (Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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