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Tulum welcomes its new airport amid controversy and celebration

Tulum, a popular tourist destination in the Mexican Caribbean, has a new airport that was inaugurated by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on December 1, 2023, the fifth anniversary of his administration.

The airport, named after Felipe Carrillo Puerto, a revolutionary leader and former governor of Yucatán, is one of the flagship projects of the president, who aims to boost the economy and development of the southeast region of the country.

tulum airport - control tower

The airport, built by the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) with an investment of 3.2 billion pesos, is expected to handle 5.5 million passengers per year, with flights from five confirmed domestic destinations: Mexico City, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Tijuana, and Mérida. The airport also plans to offer international flights in the future, as well as connect with the Tren Maya, another ambitious infrastructure project that will link the main tourist attractions of the Yucatán Peninsula.

However, the opening of the airport was not without controversy and criticism, as some aspects of the construction and operation of the complex were questioned by environmentalists, local communities, and the media. Some of the issues raised include:

- The airport was built on a 1,200-hectare plot of land that was expropriated from ejidatarios, or communal landowners, who claimed they were not properly consulted or compensated for their property. Some of them protested during the inauguration ceremony, demanding fair treatment and respect for their rights.

- The airport was inaugurated with unfinished works and visible flaws, such as leaks, cracks, and lack of air conditioning. Some attendees recorded videos of the water dripping from the ceiling and the floor being flooded during a light rain. The president did not address these problems during his speech, nor did any other official.

- The airport poses a potential threat to the environment and the cultural heritage of the area, as it is located near the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the archaeological site of Cobá, one of the largest and most important ancient Maya cities. Some experts warn that the airport could increase the pressure on the natural resources, the biodiversity, and the archaeological monuments, as well as generate noise, air, and water pollution.

Despite these challenges, the president and his supporters celebrated the opening of the airport as a historic achievement and a sign of progress and social justice. López Obrador praised the work of the military engineers and thanked the people of Tulum for their hospitality and cooperation. He also highlighted the benefits of the airport for the tourism industry and the local economy, as well as its strategic location and connectivity with the Tren Maya.

The airport of Tulum is the second one that López Obrador has inaugurated during his term, after the General Felipe Ángeles International Airport in Santa Lucía, which opened on October 29, 2023. Both airports are part of the president's plan to replace the cancelled project of the New International Airport of Mexico City, which he considered corrupt and wasteful.

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