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I could never say such a thing, but…

11 November 2018

The patron saint of the Fifis.

One of my favorite fictional villains of all times is Francis Urquhart, the devious conservative prime minister in the original “House of Cards”.  Whenever forced to make a statement that would give away his (reactionary and undemocratic) views, he would say “You may well think that, but I could never say such a thing”.  Ana Lozano’s short piece in SDPNoticias on the anti-anti-new airport protest today (“March of the FIfis”) made me think of Urquart, leading the charge to undermine democracy and uphold elitist traditions (including bribery and murder):

(my translation)

As of this writing, a group of Mexicans are marching to voice their discontent over the cancellation of the Texcoco Airport. To not build it, they say, will negatively affect the nation’s economy and that cannot be allowed to happen.

For them the construction of a first world airport is essential; but they forget that Mexico is a third world country, which is always among the most violent and corrupt in the world.

The showcase development of the Peña Nieto administration has been canceled and this has generated great indignation. The “Fifis” forget that the multi-million (er.. billion) project only benefits the businessmen and politicians involved. That inhabitants of Texcoco were dispossessed of their lands or forced to sell at ridiculous prices:  the same land that was resold to the builders at more than seven hundred dollars a meter.  Nor does the ecological impact and high maintenance cost of that airport matter.  It is not important that it is being built in a seismically active swamp. Nor that the glass- The glass-clad works of architect Norman Foster have a history of maintenance issues:  libraries that leak; a Las Vegas tower that had to be demolished: a structure in the City of London with an eye-poping 3.5 million peso window washing bill… and the new airport would have 100 times as much glass to clean.  Who would pay for the upkeep?

The thousands of disappeared, clandestine graves, murders, tractor-trailers hauling more than three hundred corpses, femicides, corruption, insecurity, impunity … those atrocities appear not to merit demonstrations, but an over-priced airport?

Ironic and shameless, no doubt …

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 13 November 2018 9:26 pm

    I hear rumors in thr streets thst airport land was expropriated and owners were gine pennies per sq. meter at the airport and all around it by Politicos ready to make a killing at the expense of the nation. This is why the people vote for AMLO. Every day the fleeing rats keep looking for ways to grab more money… 17 days more and good riddance.

  2. 18 November 2018 3:06 pm

    Seems like most of the negatives cited have already happened, e.g., not much of a reason for stopping now. Stopping the airport ow won’t right the wrongs already committed.

    However, I did read an editorial in El Financiero which claimed that the cost of stopping the airport now is going to be equal to that of finishing it. If that is indeed true (probably a controversial statement at best), then it makes zero sense to stop construction. Right? At least by finishing it, Mexico has a new piece of public infrastructure. If the airport is truly stopped, it becomes a liability, not only for the unpaid bonds issued for its construction. But it also becomes a liability in the sense that doing anything else with the land will require expensive demolition of what’s already built. And of course just leaving the half-completed structures to decay creates a monstrous monument to poor planning.

    While I’m certainly no fan of closing the old airport, I’m not sure that the plan for Santa Lucía is going to be much of a solution to anything. Right? According to Google Maps, it’s only a 55 minute drive from Toluca airport to Condesa (a randomly-picked central location) vs 1 hour and 2 minutes from Santa Lucía. And I’m looking this up on a Sunday afternoon. Imagine landing at Santa Lucía at 3:00 PM on a weekday. Holy terror!!! Flights into Toluca are already notably cheaper than flights to ACIM, but I’ve never picked one due to concerns over ground travel to the center of the city.

    And as much as I respect democracy, I really wonder what relevance opinions from people who live hundreds and hundreds of miles from the airport really hold. Those folks are unlikely to ever use any airport in CDMX, and the airport should be funded via landing fees, and taxes on passengers. Sure, it’s a big Mexican public works project, and thus is probably stuffed full of corruption. But unfortunately, that’s the baseline in Mexico, and not an argument that particularly applies to the new airport.

    While AMLO needed to do something dramatic to herald his administration, I’m not sure that canceling that airport was the wisest thing to do. Certainly the hit to the Mexican Peso alone from that action has already hurt folks SOB. And international capital markets weren’t exactly in love with AMLO to begin with. A super-weak peso certainly isn’t going to help the average Mexican who wants to buy imported medicines (diabetics), or who wants to buy any petroleum products (internationally priced) or who wants to buy tires for his car, or any number of things whose prices are set in international markets.

    But we shall see. A weak peso is great for those of us who want to be in Mexico but rely on foreign funds.


    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where the airport is lovely and tiny, with about 3 gates.

    • 19 November 2018 10:03 pm

      The El Financiero article ignored the environmental costs, and upkeep (just washing the glass in the proposed terminal is a huge expense), not to mention correcting the problems with drainage that were never properly considered, would run much more than restoring the site to its intended use as wetlands and a water retention source. Santa Lucia has its problems, but it isn’t as if it is a replacement for the existing airport, but rather a secondary airport… something not unheard of: Houston, Dallas, Washington DC etc function quite well with two or more airports.

      • 19 November 2018 11:33 pm

        Well, in your reply you also ignored the revenues that a running airport would generate. I don’t seem to be able to book a ticket anywhere without paying $100-$150 USD in tax per ticket. Also, if you been in AICM at any point, you’ll realize they aren’t exactly obsessive about washing the windows. Norman Foster may not be aware of that, but the traveling public certainly is.

        I took a look at the existing ACIM via satellite view, and it looks to my uneducated eye like they could possibly build a third runway. And there’s certainly room for another terminal. So maybe continuing with the existing airport is the best idea. I certainly was not looking forward to schlepping in from and out to Texcoco.

        As for your suggestion about multiple airports, I don’t disagree. But if it’s already hard to get people to use Toluca, then Santa Lucía is going to be an even harder sell. Right? Let’s be honest. The heavy airport users are going to places like Polanco, Roma, Condesa, etc. They aren’t coming from nor going to Tizayuca. If anything, a second airport should be to the south of the city as there are rich people there, and that’s where the growth in the city is. That makes far more sense than Santa Lucía, at least IMHO. Of course where to site it remains a problem. The notable open spaces are all watery places, Xochimilco being one that comes to mind. And no, I’m not suggesting it should be filled in for an airport.

        By the way, Houston and Dallas both have a main airport which gets the bulk of the traffic (and connections), and then a smaller airport which serves the likes of Southwest, private planes, and a few others. And if you look at places like San Francisco or New York, even there, one of the airports is usually under-utilized. In SF it’s Oakland, in New York it’s La Guardia, which mostly handles commuter flights. JFK and Newark do the heavy lifting. DC is something of a special exception due to it being the nation’s capital. But generally, one large airport is better than two smaller ones due to the network effects of connections. While CDMX is bigger than NYC, sadly, it is much poorer. So it’s questionable whether the dual airport idea is as economically viable.

        I’d still be interested in seeing a dispassionate accounting of the costs of stopping vs the costs of continuing. (Not that I expect you to do so, of course.) But continuing can’t take into account cost overruns. But I will bet serious money that if abandoned, the Texcoco site is not restored to its pre-construction state in our lifetimes. So to some extent the environmental cost is a sunk cost and so should probably not be taken into account at this point. Right? The damage is already done, or mostly done.


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