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Mexico’s opposition overturns rules to speed up public projects

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The Mexican opposition condemned the rules that allow President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to bypass regulatory barriers to approve controversial public projects, calling them unconstitutional and vowing to bring legal challenges.

The rules published in the government’s official gazette require the government to automatically obtain provisional approval within five days for projects that the government believes are in the public interest and national security interests. The broad wording covers sectors ranging from energy and telecommunications to health.

Any new permits required for Lopez Obrador’s iconic project—including a $8 billion oil refinery, a $8 billion tourist train in southern Mexico, and a capital airport—will be accelerated by this.

The president said on Tuesday that the directive is designed to prevent bureaucracies from shelving projects and allow the government to bypass environmental and other regulatory inspections.

Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s former ambassador to the United States, said: “This is very disturbing because this decision is definitely not the case for a government that claims to be committed to transparency and accountability,” he said , The rules set the tone for the second half of López Obrador’s term. .

He said: “What you will see, this is one of the first signs that a president will actually pay more attention to his darling and his darling projects.”

A lawmaker said that the opposition National Action Party (PAN) is considering its legal options to oppose the decree, including passing a constitutional challenge.

Another PAN member, Senator Lilly Téllez, had served in López Obrador’s Morena party, but she switched to the opposition last year. The commissioner stated that she will promote a constitutional challenge to the government.

“They need lawyers because we will win,” she wrote.

The Mexican Bar Association said in a statement on Tuesday that the decree is illegal and violates the Constitution in many ways, including economic competition and decentralization.

Experts say the directive may help expedite the issuance of new permits related to existing projects and other projects the government is seeking to undertake.

The Maya Train project is particularly controversial due to its impact on key biosphere reserves. Due to legal challenges, the route has been changed and delayed many times. This complicates the president’s goal of completing the project by the end of 2023.

Another project of López Obrador, the Dos Bocas refinery, is officially expected to start operations next year, but OilX economist Juan Carlos Rodriguez Arguelles estimates that it will not be completed until the first quarter of 2023.

Lopez Obrador has previously stated that he will hand over the Mayan train, the new Mexico City airport and other large projects to the Ministry of Defense. He said this was to prevent them from being privatized, but the opposition has warned of the country’s “militarization”.

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