The presidential plane will be raffled off, President López Obrador said on Friday, but there is a catch: no one will actually walk away with the luxuriously-outfitted Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
“After analysis, reflection and consultation, the decision was taken. The plane will be raffled . . . and all Mexicans who want to help can participate,” López Obrador said at his regular news conference.
He said that six million tickets will be offered at a price of 500 pesos (US $27) each with the aim of raising a total of 3 billion pesos (US $159.7 million). The tickets will go on sale on March 1 and a draw will be held at the National Lottery building in Mexico City on September 15, the president said.
But no one will win the plane that was purchased by the government of former president Felipe Calderón in 2012 for US $218 million and used by his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. Instead, 100 winners will each receive a prize of 20 million pesos, López Obrador said.
“We did not want to award a prize that would be a problem. You know, the memes, ‘where would I park it?’” he said.
The combined prize pool of 2 billion pesos (US $106.4 million) is equal to the value of the plane, according to a sample ticket presented by the president, although it has been valued at US $130 million.
The prizes will not actually be funded by the sale of raffle tickets, according to the director of the Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People. Ricardo Rodríguez Vargas explained that they will be financed by a fund made up of money seized from criminals.
“In the coming days, we’re going to work very intensely in order to make use of the fund, which contains about 4 billion pesos,” he said.
Despite his declaration that the plane will be raffled off, López Obrador clarified that it is actually still for sale.
“We’re doing all this so that we don’t [have to] sell it off cheaply, so that we’re not in a hurry. In other words, the plane is still for sale,” he said.
López Obrador said that 400 million pesos raised by the raffle will go to the air force, which will be responsible for the maintenance of the plane until a buyer is found. Other funds raised will be used to purchase medical equipment, he said.
“He who buys a number, a ticket, will be helping us to solve the problems we were left by pharaonic governments, both the one that bought the plane and the one that accepted it and used it,” the president said.
“The most important thing is that the money will be used for a very important humanitarian cause.”
López Obrador first floated the idea of holding a raffle to offload the plane last month after it was announced that it would return to Mexico after failing to sell during a period of almost a year it spent at the Southern California Logistics Airport in the United States.
The idea was widely ridiculed, criticized by opposition lawmakers and spawned countless memes, many of which focused on the problem a raffle winner would face in finding a place to park the plane.
The 80-seat aircraft has a full presidential suite with a bedroom and private bathroom. Reconfiguring it for commercial use, which would entail increasing the number of seats to about 300, is not financially viable, according to experts.
López Obrador, who takes commercial flights, has vowed never to set foot on the plane, claiming that it is too luxurious for him to use. “There can’t be a rich government with a poor people,” he often quips.