Mexicans reject finishing Mexico City airport in non-binding vote

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexicans rejected finishing the construction of a multi-billion dollar, partially built airport near Mexico City, the foundation counting the votes in the public consultation said on Sunday.

The peso fell against the dollar on the news.

The vote was called a public consultation. While it is non-binding, incoming President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged to follow the results.

In the vote, citizens were asked if the incoming government should finish the new airport or upgrade a military air base to be used in addition to the current airport.

Roughly 1 million people from across Mexico participated in the vote, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, with 69 percent rejecting the airport, according to the Arturo Rosenblueth Foundation, a non-profit which ran the count.

The peso fell over 1 percent against the dollar within 35 minutes of the results.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, said during his election campaign that the airport, contracted out by current President Enrique Pena Nieto, was too expensive and tainted by corruption.

The airport located in the city of Texcoco east of Mexico City was projected to cost about 285 billion pesos ($14.5 billion). Construction started in 2015.

The public consultation vote was organized by the President-elect’s party Morena, without the national electoral authority INE. Opposition parties say that the consultation did not follow the proper rules.

Several local media outlets reported cases of people who were able to vote more than once, and highlighted failures in software used to register voter identification cards.

But Lopez Obrador defended the consultation, saying that there might be mistakes because they were not spending billions of pesos on the process, but that it was clean.

Local business leaders and financial analysts supported the current project and warned that scrapping it would send a negative signal to local and foreign investors.

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