After getting into an extraordinary showdown with Mexico’s business elite, leading Mexican presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has offered an olive branch.
«When [telecom tycoon] Carlos Slim Helú said that the airport was a great work of construction, I said, ‘go ahead’, why don’t you build it with your own money? ("¦) Seriously, why not award [all contracts] to the private sector? I have no problem with that,» said López Obrador, who has threatened to halt the airport project if he wins the July 1 election, Mexico’s El Economista reported.
Speaking to the XVI edition of the National Forum of Tourism on May 7 in Mexico City, López Obrador, who holds a double-digit lead in most polls, said he is open to the idea of discussing with experts and businessmen the best option for financing the $13 billion airport project for Mexico City. López Obrador, who is often described by the U.S. media as a leftist or populist, has called the project a gift to contractors and has pledged not to use public funds that can otherwise be used for schools and hospitals.
Last month, Slim called on López Obrador to reconsider his pledge against the airport project, where Slim’s companies are top investors. López Obrador answered by accusing Mexico’s richest person and other billionaires of being part of a plot to prevent his victory.
López Obrador’s about face was welcomed by Juan Pablo Castañón, president of the Economic Coordinating Council (CCE), México’s most influential business group. "Divisive speeches of class struggle belong to the past. Today we Mexicans want to be united in search of opportunities,» Castañón said, according to the news site SinEmbargo.
Most of Mexico’s billionaires’ companies are CCE members, including America Movil, the telecom firm controlled by Slim; mining firm Grupo Mexico, controlled by German Larrea; FEMSA, Latin America’s biggest independent Coca-Cola bottler, where Eva Gonda has a large stake; Jose Cuervo, Latin America’s oldest active tequila distillery owned by the family of Juan Francisco Beckman; Grupo Palacio de Hierro, a high-end department store chain controlled by Alberto Bailleres; and Grupo Bimbo, the bakery empire owned by the Servitje family, Mexico’s second richest extended family.
According to the Mexican government, 70% of the airport’s financing comes from the private sector, with the rest being public funds. If Slim and the other Mexican businessmen who have also invested in the airport accept López Obrador’s invitation to fully finance it they would have to pay back the 30% the government has so far invested in the project. It would also mean that all revenues would go to the private sector which would be wholly responsible for the operation and maintenance of the airport.
With capacity for 50 million travelers a year, the new airport is being built next to the current Benito Juárez International Airport east of Mexico City, on government owned land…