World

Mexico's Obrador considering raffling off presidential jet

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Friday the latest in a series of desperate ideas to sell off his predecessor's official jet, which he says is too luxurious for a country where half the people live in poverty.

AMLO, who generally dislikes travelling great distances, flies economy when necessary

This Dec. 3, 2018, photo provided by the Mexican Presidential press office shows the presidential airplane at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City. The Boeing Dreamliner failed to find a buyer after a year on sale at a U.S. airstrip. (Mexican Presidential press office via AP)

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced Friday the latest in a series of desperate ideas to sell off his predecessor's official jet, which he says is too luxurious for a country where half the people live in poverty.

López Obrador said he is considering raffling off the plane by selling six million raffle tickets at $25 US apiece.

He offered to throw in a year's free operating time in case the winner of the lottery-style scheme doesn't have the money to operate the jet.

López Obrador has floated four other ideas for selling the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, after the $130 million jet failed to find a buyer after a year on sale at a U.S. airstrip, where it piled up about $1.5 million in maintenance costs.

He hasn't said yet whether he's considering a yard sale, but suggested that no idea has been ruled out.

"Help me," he pleaded with reporters at his morning news conference, obviously floundering for ways to get rid of the plane. He said he has met with businessmen, seeking ideas of how to get rid of the white elephant.

Stay-at-home president

The jet is expensive to run and now configured to carry only 80 people, albeit with a full presidential suite with a bedroom and private bath; experts say it would be too expensive to reconfigure back into a commercial airliner that normally carries as many as 300 passengers.

AMLO, as he is familiarly known in Mexico, has suggested bartering the plane in exchange for U.S. medical equipment, or selling it in shares to a group of businessmen for executive incentive programs. He has also offered to rent it out by the hour, in hopes of paying off the remainder of outstanding loans on the plane.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, centre left, is shown with the man he succeeded, Enrique Peña Nieto, at the National Palace in Mexico City on Aug. 20, 2018. (Carlos Jasso/Reuters)

The austerity-minded president has vowed never to step foot on the jet his predecessor bought. He flies what is called tourist class, including lining up to check in and for security purposes.

While campaigning, López Obrador embarked on an international tour to bolster his foreign policy bona fides in the election, but in his first year in office he skipped both the G20 summit in Japan and the United Nations General Assembly in New York and has not visited the White House. His meetings with Latin American leaders have all taken place in Mexico.

López Obrador has travelled extensively by air within Mexico, however.

Air travel also figured in one of López Obrador's first significant moves in office, as he cancelled a Mexico City airport project on which at least $2 billion had already been spent.

He argued that his alternative plan to expand a military airbase farther from Mexico City for civilian use would ultimately prove to be $5 billion cheaper than finishing the started project, but the decision was generally unpopular and led to a sell-off in Mexican assets on world markets.

With files from CBC News

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