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The Search to Flatten the Presidential Plane of Mexico



Even before he was elected, President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador noted the Mexican presidential plane as a symbol of all that was wrong with the political setting in Mexico, where leaders lived in abundance among a population in great need.

The $ 130 million plane was an insult to the people, he said, an example of the excesses of the countries’ former leaders.

If elected, he would sell the plane, Mr Lpez Obrador said, and return the proceeds to the people as part of a radical transformation of Mexico that would strengthen the law-abiding right, end corruption and to eradicate inequality.

Since winning a landslide in 2018, he has tried to sell, lottery or otherwise use the Mexicos Air Force One aircraft to raise money for social causes. Each time, he failed, as reality intervened: The market for second-hand personalized aircraft is small, and a Boeing Dreamliners maintenance would destroy an ordinary citizen.

Over time, presidents’ efforts to make the promise have become more detailed, expensive, and simply too bizarre, said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a research center in Washington DC

If this were an episode of The Black Mirror, he said, referring to the dystopian television show, it would not come out on screen.

The draw will be held on Tuesday. But the price, after all, is not the plane his money. Among the biggest participants is the Mexican government, which spent nearly $ 24 million to buy tickets and then gave them to hospitals, for a chance to raise much-needed funding.

His persistence says a lot about the show that has characterized his presidency and how challenging it has been for him to do well a grand vision when faced with the complexities of the real world.

Two years into his term, Mr Lpez Obrador has a mixed record on the transformation he promised, and his high approval numbers are dragging on in the face of a pandemic, an economic recession and rapid violence.

The president is conducting major investigations into corruption scandals, but now his brother may be involved in one. He cut budgets so much that some ministries are trying pay their electric bills. However, he is raising money at an oil refinery and other pet infrastructure projects.

The perfect time for a spectacle, critics say, especially one that puts him back in the role of Robin Hood, taking from rich nations and giving to his poor.

Part of it is to keep alive the idea of ​​the abusive political class of the past and its government as the strict ones, said Carlos Elizondo, a government professor at the Tec de Monterrey. But along the way, he got involved in an increasingly ridiculous exit strategy.

The president has been moving for years against this plane, which was ordered by former president Felipe Caldern, arguing that the money should be invested in improving conditions in Mexico.

Mr Calderns’s successor, Enrique Pea Nieto, was later criticized for using the plane to take his family members to generous trips, including one in China with his makeup artist. After a string of corruption scandals, Mr Pea Nieto left office in 2018 as one of the least known presidents in Mexico history.

Mr Lpez Obrador landed directly on the plane at one of his campaign ads, saying that even Donald Trump did not have a presidential plane like this.

As soon as he took office, he began to try, with much fanfare, to unload the plane. He talks about it regularly at the hour-long news conferences he holds every morning, one of which is held in front of the Dreamliner parked in its hangar. As president, he makes a point of flying advertising.

But the offers did not exactly start to be used for the Boeing 787, which, with its king-size and treadmill bed, does not give itself commercial use.

When he set up the spectacle of a lottery, Mexicans flooded social media with memes of what they would do if they won the plane and suddenly had to pay for its maintenance, gas and parking.

Faced with the controversial wisdom of giving a plane to a regular citizen, he mixed up the idea. He decided to keep the lottery, but instead would give away 100 prizes with nearly $ 940,000 each.

To promote the new scheme, he invited businessmen to a dinner at which he served tamales and passed around a registration form so they would commit to buying tickets.

The plane is a symbol he does not want to release, said Ana Paula Ordorica, a columnist for a Mexican newspaper and television host. The two calls for this president’s meeting are the fight against corruption and austerity measures, and the plane allows him to address both.

There is also the necessity of not losing face. Late last month, the president released a video of himself boarding the infamous plane and encouraging Mexicans to make history and buy a lottery ticket, in a last-ditch effort to promote his lottery.

He still has the support to break the past and get rid of the plane, said Ignacio Marvn, a professor at CIDE, a university in Mexico City. He found a way out, so he retains the support and is not criticized for reversing the decision, which is the lottery.

And yet, after all the time and resources spent trying to get rid of this plane, he remains parked in his hangar in Mexico, waiting for a suitable buyer.

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