MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will scrap his own flagship infrastructure project to build a new crude refinery if it is not supported in a referendum this weekend, a top adviser said on Wednesday.
Leftist Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, is putting 10 campaign promises, including a railway line in southern Mexico and cash transfer plans to the young and elderly, up for vote in an informal public consultation on Nov. 24-25.
Rocio Nahle, who is set to assume the post of energy minister once Lopez Obrador takes office on Dec. 1, said the new government would heed results on the proposed refinery, which is planned to be built in the southern state of Tabasco.
“If the people say no, we’re going to abide by what the people say,” Nahle told reporters.
In September, Lopez Obrador said the refinery would cost around $8 billion. Nahle said in a newspaper interview that investments in the first year would be $2.5 billion.
An online poll of 1,094 people by Consulta Mitofsky taken Nov. 15-18 showed 69 percent of respondents backed the refinery.
After holding another informal referendum that drew only around 1 percent of Mexican voters late last month, Lopez Obrador said he would cancel a partly built airport for the Mexican capital, which hit the peso currency.
Opposition politicians have criticized the consultations, which are being staffed by members of Lopez Obrador’s party, for lacking democratic controls. Lopez Obrador has pledged that future referendums will be run by Mexico’s electoral institute.
Lopez Obrador has promised to build a new refinery and overhaul existing plants to boost gasoline production and reduce crude exports.
Last month, credit rating agency Fitch put a negative outlook on the debt of state oil company Pemex, citing Lopez Obrador’s plans. On Nov. 8, the International Monetary Fund said that Pemex should improve its financial position before it invests in building new refineries.
Lopez Obrador’s team aims to get the new refinery operational within three years and increase output at Mexico’s six plants, which are currently operating at around 40 percent capacity. “We need to invest,” Nahle said.
Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; editing by Grant McCool