Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021

Mexico’s opposition has rejected rules that will allow President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to circumvent regulatory barriers to approving controversial public projects, describing them as unconstitutional and promising to bring legal challenges.

The rules published in the official government newspaper requires that projects deemed by the government to be in the public interest and in the interest of national security receive automatic provisional approval within five days. The broad wording covers sectors from energy and telecommunications to health.

Any new permits needed for López Obrador’s signature projects – including an $ 8 billion oil refinery, a $ 8 billion tourist train in southern Mexico and an airport for the capital – will be accelerated by the move.

The president said Tuesday that the mandate is aimed at stopping bureaucracy from stopping projects that allow the government to circumvent environmental and other regulatory controls.

“This is very worrying, because for a government that says it is committed to transparency and accountability, this decision is anything but,” said former Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhán. Obrador’s term. .

“What you’re going to see, and that’s one of the first signals, is a president who’s actually going to double down on his pets, his pet projects,” he said.

The opposition National Action Party (PAN) is considering its legal options to fight the decree, one lawmaker said, including through constitutional 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 insist on a constitutional challenge against the government.

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

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

The directive could help speed up the issuance of new permits related to existing projects, as well as additional projects the government wants to undertake, experts said.

The Maya Train Project was particularly controversial for its impact on a critical biosphere reserve. The route has been changed and delayed several times by legal challenges. This has hampered the president’s goal of completing the project by the end of 2023.

Another of López Obrador’s projects, the Dos Bocas oil refinery, is expected to officially start work next year, but Juan Carlos Rodriguez Arguelles, an economist at OilX, has estimated that it will only be completed in the first quarter of 2023.

López Obrador has previously said he will hand over the Maya train, a new airport for Mexico City and other major projects into the hands of the Ministry of Defense. He said this was to prevent them from being privatized, but the opposition had warned about the “militarization” of the country.

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