REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- Pop star Britney Spears is scheduled to give a free outdoor concert Sunday to kick off Christmas festivities here, but the local government declined to explain how the seemingly costly show was acquired.
The singer's "Femme Fatale" tour brings her to Mexico City for a ticketed concert at the Foro Sol stadium Saturday night. Earlier this week, Mayor Marcelo Ebrard announced via Twitter that the singer would be giving a free concert at the Monument to the Revolution in the city center Sunday at 7 p.m., a message that quickly spread online, drawing praise and criticism.
Mexico City's leftist leaders have made large-scale public parties a populist hallmark of their governments in recent years, arguing that many residents of the city are unable to pay high ticket prices for concerts or for vacations outside the city.
The capital sets up landlocked "beaches" featuring sand and swimming pools during the warm spring months, and an ice rink during the Christmas season. Both initiatives have proved popular with locals.
The free Spears concert is expected to draw an estimated 50,000 people to the esplanade at the recently refurbished Monument to the Revolution.
Responding to questions from The Times, a spokesman for Ebrard declined to say how the Sunday concert will be paid for. But a top official in Ebrard's government told reporters this week that the concert is free for both residents and city coffers (link in Spanish).
"The concert is free and as Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has said, nothing will be paid to the singer," said Mario Carrillo, head of the city's family development agency. "Everything was done through interchanges that we can't reveal because a private contract was signed."
Ebrard's government is inaugurating this year's ice rink on Saturday. Local media reports said the city budgeted more than $2.6 million for this year's Christmas events, which are also to include a massive Christmas tree and a night of fake snowfall.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Pop singer Britney Spears performs earlier this year in Vancouver, Canada. Credit: BritneySpears.com