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“Legality of the public consultation for the cancellation of the New International Airport of Mexico (NAIM)”

Due to the high demand of travelers and the need to increase the airport infrastructure in Mexico, and considering the lack of space for the expansion of the current Mexico City International Airport (AICM), the Mexican government found it necessary to conduct a search for viable sites for the construction of the NAIM through the elaboration of technical and feasibility studies, which pointed the Federal Zone of the exlago de Texcoco as the most admissible option.

The construction works of the new Texcoco airport began in 2014, which implied a major investment and generation of employment opportunities. It is important to mention that, said project is the most noted public work in the country and the first to adopt the open data standard, that is to say, that the data and procurement documents are available to the general public.

According to the president-elect of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, such project is excessively expensive and implies a high environmental impact. In addition, the project schedule considers 2020 as the opening year, so the president-elect proposed a citizen consultation to define the future of the NAIM.

This consultation was carried out last during the previous month of October, and the winning option was to build two runways in Santa Lucia (the current site of a military base) and to rehabilitate the AICM and the Toluca International Airport, resulting in the cancellation of the NAIM project in Texcoco.

The above will generate, in addition to controversy and political confrontations, significant repercussions in the country´s economy and international relations, so we have to ask ourselves; which are the legal implications of such result?

In the first instance, the citizen consultation is in violation of the article 35 of the Mexican Constitution, since it was not convoked by the Congress of the Union, it revolves around income and expenses of the State and it was not executed on the same day of the federal polling session, furthermore, there is a Federal Law of Popular Consultation that rules the procedure, which was not taken into account.

In addition to the above, the consultation was not reliable because, among other issues: (i) there was no interference from the National Electoral Institute (INE); (ii) ballots without folio or security elements were used; and (iii) the count was made by individuals.

On the other hand, according to the open data portal of the federal government, the NAIM has entered into 461 agreements with, among others, state-owned companies, the private sector, institutions such as the Ministry of National Defense (SEDENA), and universities, whose contract value exceeds the amount of one billion pesos, so in light of the cancellation of the NAIM, the uncertainly regarding the compliance of such agreements remains.

In view of the foregoing, regardless of the personal preferences or opinions about the most favorable site for the construction of the NAIM, it is paramount to take into consideration its legal implications.

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