Via Financial Times

For $25, you could have a shot at winning a luxury presidential plane.

The country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, floated the idea of a raffle on Friday as the latest scheme to rid himself of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner he has unsuccessfully been trying to flog, saying it is too fancy for a country where half the people are poor. 

A frugal nationalist, he flies coach class on commercial aircraft during his journeys around Mexico every weekend. In just over a year in office, he has not travelled abroad. 

The president told his daily morning news conference he had spent most of Thursday pondering how to “end the lamentable history” of the plane. He said last year that his predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto would splurge as much as $12,000 on toilet paper, $13,000 on Carolina Herrera perfumes for men and $3,000 on hair gel per trip on the plane.

Mr López Obrador has won praise for his good intentions in focusing on Mexico’s rampant corruption and inequality, but has seen the economy screech to a halt since taking office. He said this week he was flying the plane home from a hangar in California after a UN-supervised bid process failed to produce a buyer.

$125m


the value of the only offer Mexico received for the presidential jet

Maintenance alone while in the US was $1.6m, admitted the president, who distilled his unique economic vision into a book at Christmas. He has regularly sold off cars, properties and other items seized from drug cartels to raise money for roads in poor areas.

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“Say goodbye to the presidential plane,” a tweet from the government’s official account said in December 2018, two days after Mr López Obrador took office, as the jet was flown to the hangar in California to await a sale that never happened. 

The UN valued the custom-fitted Dreamliner — described by one person who flew in it as fabulously comfortable — at $130m. So far Mexico has only had one offer, for $125m, which it rejected, although the president left the door open to reconsidering.

As a second option, Mr López Obrador said the government had suggested to Washington that the US could take the white elephant — which is now being billed as “the continent’s most emblematic airline” — off Mexico’s hands and pay for it with $130m worth of ambulances, scanners and X-ray machines for public hospitals.

A third possibility would be to sell it to a dozen businesses, who would each chip in $11m. “We have two [interested] so far,” he acknowledged.

As a fourth option, the Mexican air force could rent out the plane by the hour, at a discount to the $70,000 that the only such jet-for-hour costs in Asia.

“And the fifth idea is a raffle,” Mr López Obrador said, to stunned giggles from the audience. The national lottery could sell 6m tickets at 500 pesos each, he said, and the winner would get a year or two of free servicing as well. 

The suggestion speedily became the top trending topic on Twitter in Mexico, sparking memes and jokes. Letras Libres, a magazine, tweeted that it would run a fiction competition in which all entries had to start with the line “and when he woke up, he discovered he had won the presidential plane”. 

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The winner, however, might have a job parking the jet until the controversial new airport Mr López Obrador is building — which will replace the $13bn Norman Foster design he scrapped — is ready in 2022.