The Mexican president is defending expensive pet building projects

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador got into a fight on Monday over an audit of some of his pet infrastructure projects by the country’s congressional management and budget office.

The office said López Obrador had underestimated the cost of canceling his predecessor’s project to build a new airport in Mexico on the former lake bed by billions of dollars.

The audit office said the cost of canceling construction contracts and paying off bonds supporting the project could reach $ 14.5 billion, compared to López Obrador’s estimate of $ 4.5 billion.

López Obrador said on Monday that the audit was “excessive”.

“Their data is wrong, I have other facts,” López Obrador said.

Instead of continuing the partially built airport in the eastern suburbs of Texcoca, which spent at least $ 2 billion, the president decided to renovate and expand the military airfield at Santa Lucia Air Force Base north of the capital.

Although the new project is projected to cost $ 4.1 billion, López Obrador claimed it represents cost savings even given the losses due to the cancellation of the Texcoco airport.

López Obrador claims that the canceled airport could cost as much as $ 15 billion upon completion, and could be subject to flooding and sinking due to water-soaked soil.

Opposition Congresswoman Verónica Juárez Piña of the left-wing Democratic Revolutionary Party said: “Instead of attacking the ASF (audit office), it should clear up irregularities, waste and lack of transparency in the use of government money in virtually all areas of its administration, especially its mega-projects. “

The president has ordered ambitious construction projects such as a new Gulf Coast refinery and a $ 6.8 billion project to build a railroad that would run about 1,500 kilometers in a rough loop around the Yucatan Peninsula, linking resorts to Mayan ruins.

Critics say a small number of these projects have had appropriate feasibility or environmental impact studies and could become white elephants.

The audit report presented over the weekend also contained harsh criticism of the Maya train project, which is overseen by the government’s Fonatur travel agency and will be led by the military after it is completed in a few years.

The audit found that Fonatur “did not show that it had an operational project or financial model that would identify a financing plan” for the train.

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