President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the airport would be scrapped, justifying his decision on a popular referendum.
Some work continued on Thursday at a partly-built US$13 billion Mexico City airport that the new president promised to scrap, even after the government announced construction had been halted.
Around 20 laborers were working on an access bridge to the project at a dried-out lake bed on the capital’s eastern flank. Security personnel, who prevented Reuters from getting close to the main site, said some construction continued there.
However, Communications and Transport Minister Javier Jimenez Espriu told a regular news conference on Thursday that “construction of the airport is officially suspended.”
The head of the government-run agency responsible for the project, Gerardo Ferrando, said the only construction still underway was to preserve what had already been built, such as drainage works, slabs of foundation and a partly-built tower.
“It is not a switch you can just turn on or off automatically,” Ferrando said on local radio. “Works need to be gradually finished.”
Ferrando said the government was looking into making part of the site into a type of park for public use.
Lopez Obrador argued the airport had been tainted by corruption, would be too expensive to maintain, and would compromise the remains of the Texcoco Lake.
The airport’s project has not only affected the construction site itself, but also surrounding areas where the construction firm is obtaining material.
The mines’ activities have polluted drinking water and rivers, according to the Peoples’ Front in Defense of Land of Atenco (FPDT), and property speculation continues in the hands of corrupt public servants “to build a megalopolis under the control of the same as always.”
The government's alternative plan to convert a military air base into a commercial airport and overhaul the capital’s current hub and another in the nearby city of Toluca, will cost less than finishing the canceled project.
According to the outgoing government, the airport was about one-third complete when Lopez Obrador decided to cancel it, but Jimenez maintained it had not advanced that far.