MEXICO CITY – Selling shares in the presidential plane, trading it for ambulances and even putting it up as the prize in a raffle were some of the options outlined Friday by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador more than a year into his effort to unload the luxurious Boeing 787 Dreamliner acquired by one of his predecessors at a cost of $218.7 million.
The president, popularly known as AMLO, put the aircraft on sale within days of his taking office in December 2018 with an asking price of $130 million, based on a United Nations appraisal of its value.
AMLO said that selling the Boeing is no easy task because no company would be willing to use an airplane so lavish.
“This was an excess. They should not have bought this plane. Even the richest and most extravagant people in the world do not have planes like this,” he said.
The decision to order the Boeing 787-8 was made in 2012 by then-President Felipe Calderon, but the plane was not delivered until February 2016, during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, AMLO’s immediate predecessor.
While emphasizing that his government is seeking the quickest possible resolution of the dilemma, AMLO asked the public to help him choose from among five possible paths:
1. AN ANONYMOUS BUYER
A buyer from the United States offered the Mexican government $125 million for the Boeing, $5 million less than what the UN says it’s worth.
Lopez Obrador said that two potential buyers soured on the deal when they learned that Mexico would have to bring the plane back from a Boeing repair and maintenance facility in California.
2. A BARTER ARRANGEMENT WITH THE US
Mexico has also formally asked the US to take the aircraft in exchange for an equivalent value in the form of medical equipment, such as ambulances, CT scanners and X-ray machines, among other hospital essentials.
The response to the proposal is still pending.
3. SELLING SHARES OF THE PLANE
Another option would be to sell the plane to a consortium of 12 Mexican companies who would pay $11 million each. The president said he had met with leading businessmen such as Carlos Slim (the world’s eighth-richest person), Carlos Salazar and Antonio del Valle, in an attempt to convince the private sector to help “repair the damage.”
4. RENT IT BY THE HOUR
Pointing to the case of a plane in Asia that can be rented for $70,000 an hour, the president said the country could offer the aircraft for charter flights under the administration of the Mexican air force.
The plane can fly up to 800 hours a year at an operating cost of $15,000 per hour.
5. A RAFFLE
Lopez Obrador suggested having the National Lottery offer 6 million 500-peso ($25) tickets for a chance to win the presidential plane and a guarantee of the services needed to operate the plane for a year or even two.
The president’s mention of a raffle inspired a flood of jokes and memes on social media.