The new era of government austerity that President López Obrador has vowed to deliver was on full display yesterday as he lined up to board a commercial flight to Veracruz.
The day after he was sworn in as president, López Obrador arrived at the Mexico City airport in his Volkswagen Jetta just after 2:00pm in the company of his small, unarmed security detail made up of just three women and two men with no police training.
Gone are the days when it was impossible for ordinary citizens to approach their president due to the presence of the Estado Presidencial Mayor, the institution which until Friday was charged with protecting the nation’s leader.
Yesterday, passengers in the airport and airline staff posed for photos with López Obrador and congratulated the avuncular 65-year-old political veteran on his inauguration, with some even taking the opportunity to give him a hug.
For his part, the new president appeared relaxed, chatting with those who approached him about a soccer match in Mexico City and asking some which they had enjoyed more: his official swearing-in ceremony at the legislative palace or his indigenous cleansing in the zócalo, the capital’s main square.
Waiting for his flight, López Obrador assured fellow passengers within earshot that the presidential plane is going to be put up for sale.
On board, the newspaper El Universal reported that the airplane’s captain welcomed the new president aboard, a gesture that was met with rapturous applause from the other passengers.
During the flight, López Obrador drank coffee and looked over documents with Daniel Assaf, the head of his informal security detail — known as the presidential ayudantía, a word which literally means assistants or helpers.
He also assured executives of the airline he was traveling on – Aeromar – who accompanied him on his maiden flight as president that he would continue to fly commercial in line with his austerity plan.
Once on the ground in Veracruz, López Obrador declared to waiting reporters and supporters that he was a fellow veracruzano given that his father was a native of the Gulf coast state.
After traveling from Veracruz to the state capital Xalapa, the popular new president addressed some 2,000 supporters at a rally reminiscent of a campaign event in the city’s Lerdo square.
There, he also declared “we are selling all the planes and helicopters that the corrupt politicians used,” a remark that triggered a loud roar of approval.
Earlier yesterday, Finance Secretary Carlos Urzúa told a press conference in Mexico City that the Boeing 787 Dreamliner presidential plane would be put up for sale “very soon” along with about 60 other government planes and 70 helicopters.
A statement issued by the Finance Secretariat said the luxurious US $218 million plane would depart Mexico City today for the Victorville Airport in southern California, where Boeing recommended it be sent to await a new owner.
After yesterday’s rally in Xalapa, at which the new president also outlined other austerity measures including ending past presidents’ pensions and slashing bureaucrats’ salaries, López Obrador returned to the Veracruz airport, where he took another commercial flight – this time on Interjet – to return to Mexico City.
In this new age of austerity, any commercial aircraft has the potential to become the new presidential plane.