The speaker of Puerto Rico's lower house said Wednesday the contract authorizing the Aerostar Airport Holdings consortium to lease and operate San Juan's airport for 40 years is bad for the Caribbean island.

"It's a bad transaction for the country," Jaime Perello of the governing PPD party said in statements to WKAQ radio about the lease deal, under which Mexican group Asur will operate the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport with financial backing from its 50-50 joint venture partner, the Highstar Capital infrastructure investment firm.

Perello said the deal, which the U.S. commonwealth's previous government signed, was reached to raise money to make bond payments.

The lawmaker also said the contract was aimed at replenishing the Government Development Bank for Puerto Rico's reserves after hundreds of millions of dollars were withdrawn by previous Gov. Luis Fortuño's administration.

Perello's remarks came on the same day unions, grassroots groups and several small political factions held a demonstration against the airport concession.

The director of the state-run Puerto Rico Ports Authority, Victor Suarez, said current Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla's administration respects the groups' right to protest but will honor the contract.

Although opponents want the legislature to name a commission to investigate the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the concession, Garcia Padilla said last week that reneging on the deal could scare off potential foreign investors in Puerto Rico.

Suarez noted that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration still must give the green light for the deal, but said that approval could come any time this month.

Aerostar Airport Holdings is to provide some $2.6 billion to the PRPA and Puerto Rico over the life of the lease. EFE