Even before being elected, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pointed to the ship as a symbol of all that was wrong with the political system. But getting rid of it is not an easy task.
Even before being elected, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pointed to the presidential plane as a symbol of all that was wrong in Mexico’s political system, where leaders lived generously amid a population in dire need. The $ 130 million jet was an “insult to the people,” he said, “an example of the excesses” of the country’s former leaders.
If elected, he would sell the plane, López Obrador said, and return the proceeds to the people as part of a radical transformation of Mexico. that would empower the marginalized, it would end corruption and eradicate inequality.
Since winning overwhelmingly in 2018, Lopez Obrador has tried to sell, raffle or use the plane, Air Force One in Mexico, to raise money for social causes. Every time he tried, he failed, as reality intruded: the market for second-hand custom aircraft is small, and maintaining a Boeing Dreamliner would ruin an ordinary citizen.
Over time, the president’s efforts to fulfill the promise have become more elaborate, costly, and just “too strange”, according to Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, a research center in Washington, DC
“If this was an episode of ‘Black Mirror,'” he said, referring to the dystopian TV show, “it wouldn’t make it to the screen.”
The raffle was held last Tuesday. But the prize, after all, was not the plane, but cash. Among the largest participants is the Mexican government, whichwho spent almost $ 24 million to buy tickets and then handed them over to hospitals, for a chance to raise much-needed funds.
The persistence of the president speaks volumes about showmanship that has characterized his presidency, and how challenging it has been for him to fulfill a grand vision when faced with the complexities of the real world.
Two years into his tenure, López Obrador has a mixed record in the transformation he promised, and its high approval numbers are creeping in the face of the pandemic, the economic recession and the increase in violence.
The president is conducting major investigations into corruption scandals, but now his own brother may be involved in one. It cut budgets so much that some ministries are struggling to pay their electricity bills. However, it is funneling money into an oil refinery and other favorite infrastructure projects.
The perfect time for a showcritics say, especially one that puts him back in the role of Robin Hood, taking from the nation’s rich and giving to the poor.
“Part of this is keeping alive the idea of the abusive political class of the past” and its government as “the austere ones,” said Carlos Elizondo, a professor of government at Tecnológico de Monterrey. “But on the way, it has become entangled in an increasingly ridiculous exit strategy. “
The president has been criticizing for years this plane, which was ordered by former President Felipe Calderón, arguing that the money should be invested in improving conditions in Mexico.
Calderón’s successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, was later criticized for using the plane to take family members on luxurious trips, including one to China with his wife’s makeup artist. After a series of corruption scandals, Peña Nieto left office in 2018 as one of the least popular presidents in the history of Mexico.
López Obrador pointed directly at the plane in one of his campaign ads, saying that “not even Donald Trump” he had a presidential plane like this one.
As soon as he took office, he began to attempt, with great fanfare, get rid of the plane. He talks about it regularly at the hour-long press conferences he holds every morning, one of them in front of the Dreamliner parked in his hangar. As president, he struggles to get around on scheduled flights.
But the offers didn’t exactly start pouring in for the Boeing 787, that, with its king size bed and treadmill, is not suitable for commercial use.