Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency
Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

February 26, 2024
Today´s Paper

February 26, 2024

Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

Mexico’s Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

TULUM, Mexico – Transparency and the right to access public information are at the forefront of the Instituto Nacional de Transparencia, Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Personales (INAI) in Mexico. Their mission is to combat opacity and ensure that society has access to the information it seeks, whether it pertains to government officials’ salaries, social programs, environmental impact studies, or documentation related to infrastructure projects nationwide.

One such project under scrutiny is the Felipe Carrillo Puerto International Airport in Tulum, Quintana Roo. From the federal government’s perspective, this airport is set to commence operations on December 1, 2023. It is projected to welcome between five and six million passengers annually, relieving some of the burden on Cancun’s airport. Moreover, it is designed to serve as a military base and play a pivotal role in boosting tourism and the regional economy, aligning with the Tren Maya initiative.

Mexicans are keen to learn more about this new airport, prompting 651 records related to it on the Plataforma Nacional de Transparencia (PNT) by September 1. These records include 203 pieces of public information, 441 requests, and 7 complaints regarding responses.

Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

Citizens are utilizing transparency tools to request information from various government agencies. For instance, they are seeking a list of all companies and individuals contracted for the airport’s construction from the Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA). The Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (SEMARNAT), they are requesting a copy of the official document pertaining to the civil-military airbase’s construction. Additionally, the Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR) is being asked for assessments, studies, and analyses related to the project, among other inquiries.

Most of the institutions responsible for providing this information belong to the Armed Forces, as the Tulum airport falls under the administration of the state-majority-owned company “Grupo Aeroportuario, Ferroviario y de Servicios Auxiliares Olmeca-Maya-Mexica S.A. de C.V.,” established in April 2022 and coordinated by SEDENA.

It’s worth noting that aside from their primary responsibilities in security, customs, and mega-projects, the Mexican Armed Forces will soon manage 15 airports in the country and oversee the operations of the resurrected airline, “Mexicana.” However, they are not exempt from transparency and are being held accountable to the public.

Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

Recall that on May 18, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruled that information regarding federal government projects and works is public, and the term “national security” cannot be used as a reason for confidentiality.

This decision by the Court was in response to the Constitutional Controversy (217/2021) filed by INAI in December 2021. This was after an Agreement was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation on November 22 of the same year, designating these infrastructure projects as matters of national security and public interest.

As emphasized in various forums, information about acquisitions, contracts, and infrastructure works cannot be shielded under the label of “national security” because they involve public resources. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, on the very same day, the Federal Executive issued a Decree stating that the construction of public assets, transportation, airports (including Palenque, Chetumal, and Tulum), the Tren Maya, and the Corredor Interoceánico del Istmo de Tehuantepec are deemed matters of national security.

Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency

For this reason, given the striking similarity between the May 2023 Decree and the late 2021 Agreement, INAI has filed a complaint with the SCJN, requesting that the effects of the Controversy be extended to the new Decree.

The fact that the INAI Plenary is already authorized to convene enables the filing of actions of unconstitutionality or constitutional controversies, which are crucial tools in maintaining the balance of power and safeguarding human rights.

Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for Transparency
Mexico's Tulum Airport Project and the Fight for TransparencyEN