By Kylie Madry
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico is likely to hand over control of the capital’s main airport – the busiest in the country – to its navy, according to a draft decree published on Tuesday, in what would be the latest step increasing the military’s role in the sector.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has touted the armed forces’ involvement in aviation, arguing it has reduced drug trafficking and smuggling out of airports.
The Mexico City International Airport (AICM) currently sits under the transportation ministry, though the navy has already taken over security operations, including customs. Former navy pilot Carlos Velazquez was appointed as its top director last year.
“There’s more security, more certainty, the rules are followed better, there’s more discipline,” with the navy in charge of the airport, Velazquez told reporters on Tuesday.
The draft decree must be published in Mexico’s official gazette to take effect.
Velazquez said that authorities were working to make sure the AICM, also known as Benito Juarez, would be able to take advantage of the funds generated from the airport-use tax.
The money currently goes to a fund to pay off bondholders who financed the construction of an airport canceled by Lopez Obrador in favor of building the Felipe Angeles airport on the outskirts of the capital.
The little-used, one-year-old Felipe Angeles airport, one of the president’s largest public works projects, is also on an active military base.
In May, the AICM moved nearly 4 million passengers, according to data from the national aviation authority, while Felipe Angeles airport’s passenger numbers were almost 95% lower.
(Reporting by Kylie Madry; Editing by Jamie Freed)
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