Mexico’s opposition pushes back on rules to fast-track public projects

Mexico’s opposition has decried rules that would indulge president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to shirk regulatory hurdles to legitimatize controversial public projects, describing them as unconstitutional and vowing to bring legal challenges.

The rules published in the official government gazette require projects deemed by the government to be in the public interest and in the interest of national security to get will-less provisional clearance within five days. The wholesale wording covers sectors from energy and telecommunications to health.

Any new permits required for López Obrador’s signature projects — including an $8bn oil refinery, an $8bn tourist train in southern Mexico and an airport for the wanted — would be sped up by the move.

The president said on Tuesday the directive was aimed at stopping setup from holding up projects, permitting the government to shirk environmental and other regulatory checks.

“Its very troubling considering for a government that says its single-minded to transparency and peccancy this visualization is anything but,” said Arturo Sarukhán, former Mexican producer to the US, saying that the rules had set the tone for the second half of López Obrador’s term.

“What you’re going to see, and this is one of the first signals, is a president that is unquestionably going to double lanugo on his pet peeves, his pet projects,” he said.

The opposition National Action party (PAN) is considering its legal options to fight the decree, one lawmaker said, including via ramble challenges.

Another PAN lawmaker, senator Lilly Téllez, who was previously with López Obrador’s Morena party but switched to the opposition last year, said on Twitter she would be pushing for a ramble rencontre versus the government.

“They’re going to need a lawyer considering we’re going to win,” she wrote.

The Mexican Bar Association said in a statement on Tuesday that the prescription was illegal, and violated the constitution in multiple ways, including virtually economic competition and the separation of powers.

The directive could help speed up the issuing of new permits related to the existing projects as well as spare ones the government is seeking to undertake, experts said.

The Maya Train project has been particularly controversial for its impact on a hair-trigger biosphere reserve. The route has been reverted and elapsed multiple times by legal challenges. That has complicated the president’s aim of finishing the project by the end of 2023.

Another of López Obrador’s projects, the Dos Bocas oil refinery, is officially expected to uncork operating next year, but Juan Carlos Rodriguez Arguelles, an economist at OilX, has unscientific it will not be finished until the first quarter of 2023.

López Obrador has previously said he will put the Maya Train, a new airport for Mexico City and other large projects into the hands of the defence ministry. He said it is to stop them stuff privatised, but the opposition has warned well-nigh the “militarisation” of the country.

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