Only a week has passed since the “presidential plane” raffle was drawn but President López Obrador is already thinking about holding another lottery.
At his regular news conference on Tuesday, AMLO, as the president is commonly known, floated the idea of raffling off 5,000 lots in Sinaloa, land that was purchased by the government of former president Felipe Calderón in 2009.
López Obrador said the Calderón administration bought a large parcel of land at Playa Espirítu in the municipality of Escuinapa for US $100 million. He characterized the purchase as an act of squandering, asserting that it damaged the public coffers and benefited only a few, select people.
The plan for the 2,381-hectare property, which runs 12 kilometers along the Sinaloa coast, was to develop it as a resort town with a beachfront malecón, or promenade, and holiday homes.
But the project never got off the ground even though the governments of both Calderón and his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, dedicated significant resources to it.
According to López Obrador, no companies are interested in investing in the project even though all the required permits have been issued because it’s located about 80 kilometers south of Mazatlán airport.
“Since [the land] was bought nothing has been done and of course no one wants to buy it because it was purchased at an extremely high price. It’s on the border between Sinaloa and Nayarit, it’s very far from the Mazatlán airport,” he said.
AMLO charged that a tourism development between the airport and the city of Mazatlán, located about 20 kilometers north, would have been a better idea. “There’s no infrastructure” in the Playa Espíritu area, he said.
With no one apparently interested in purchasing the beachfront land – a problem the government also faces in its endeavor to offload the unwanted presidential plane – López Obrador, who ruled out any possibility of investing further public funds in the failed tourism project, sees a raffle as a means to recoup at least some of the money spent on it.
“The intention was to sell it in order to allocate the resources to the Santa María dam, which is in Sinaloa and is needed for irrigation. But if we can’t, we’re thinking about raffling it off given that we did so well with the plane raffle. There are 5,000 lots, there would be 5,000 prizes and [each winner] would have their lot. … It wouldn’t be bad, we’ll wait and see.”
That the plane raffle was successful is debatable. Only 64% of the tickets were actually sold; the remainder were donated to the national health service Insabi. Therefore the proceeds from ticket sales, net of the 10% commission paid on sales, were not enough to pay out the 2 billion pesos in prizes.
Not that it matters, however. The government said the prize payouts were guaranteed, regardless of how many tickets sold, because the prize money would come from funds recovered by the Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People (now the focus of internal corruption).