Mexican President Inaugurates New Remote Mexico City Airport

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday inaugurated a new airport in Mexico City, one of his four flagship real estate projects.

The government pulled out all the fanfare it could muster, including releasing a documentary about the project showing an army general speaking to a statue.

The terminal was built by the army, on an army air base, and is named after an army general.

But the new terminal will only handle around 16 flights a day, partly because it is so far from the city and rail links and highways have yet to be completed. On Monday, only around 2,000 passengers used the new terminal, a far cry from the 2.4 million the government hopes to attract by the end of the year.

Only one “international” flight will use the airport, a flight to Caracas, Venezuela, operated by a Venezuelan carrier under US sanctions.

López Obrador conceded that the new terminal is more popular among cargo flights than passenger jets.

“It’s just for airlines to increase their flights,” the president said. “In the case of freight traffic, there has been more progress, the [old] Mexico City airport is also saturated with freight.

The new Felipe Angeles Mexico City Airport reflects the contrasts and contradictions of López Obrador’s administration.

There’s the government’s austerity – its main campaign promise is on full display in the rather bare-bones terminal – as well as its usual overreliance on the Mexican military.

A documentary about the construction of the terminal features an army general speaking and saluting a huge statue of General Felipe Angeles, who fought alongside Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1917 and was later executed.

But there are also widely ridiculed government claims about how long it will take passengers to get to the new terminal, 27 miles from the city center, and repeated complaints from López Obrador that there is a conspiracy in the press to smear its new airport.

The president sees in the new airport the symbol of his struggle against privilege, conservatism and ostentation, things he despises. He despises the idea of ​​“a rich government in a poor country” more than anything else – except, perhaps, foreign advice.

López Obrador has found an easy target in the hugely expensive and architecturally daring project launched by his predecessor to build a huge and flashy new airport in a swamp east of the city, much closer to central Mexico City.

López Obrador decided to cancel this and build the new airport on firmer ground to the north. It is expected to cost $4 billion, which López Obrador says represents a cost saving over the marshy site, which could have required billions to maintain due to the waterlogged ground.

The new airport will operate in tandem with Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport, whose two overcrowded terminals were scheduled to be closed under the previous plan.

It is one of four key projects he is completing before his term ends in 2024 – the airport, an oil refinery, a tourist train in the Yucatan Peninsula and a train linking the coast Gulf and Pacific Seaports – reflecting his view that his is not just a normal six-year presidential term. Mexico does not allow re-election.

He sees himself as leading a historic and irreversible “transformation” of Mexico, and he has turned to construction projects — and the military — to cement that legacy. The military will actually own and operate some of the projects once they are completed.

But the rush to complete the projects has drawn criticism. The new airport was inaugurated before the completion of road and rail links, and the government has announced that it will require all carriers wishing to schedule new flights to Mexico City to use the new airport, rather than the older airport and closer.

When his Maya Train tourism project ran into trouble – engineers found they couldn’t build an elevated section along the Caribbean coast because it would mean closing the area’s only highway – they simply started doing pass the line through the low jungle.

No environmental impact statement or full feasibility plan was ever drawn up for the project. No one knows how many tourists will actually use it.

In a bid to bolster the new terminal, the government changed rules that typically require passengers to show up two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. At the Felipe Angeles terminal, they should only arrive one or two hours before these flights.

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