MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced on Friday that his government will go ahead with a presidential plane-related raffle that had sparked ridicule on social media, but he said the winners will receive cash prizes as opposed to the luxurious $130 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner itself.
The idea is for a portion of the proceeds from the raffle, which will culminate with a drawing of prize winners on Sept. 15, to go toward maintaining the plane ahead of its eventual sale.
“We’re doing all of this to avoid auctioning it off, so we’re not rushed. In other words, the plane is still up for sale … What we get from the raffle will go to hospitals, and (to pay for) two years of maintenance until it’s sold,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference.
The president said a total of 6 million raffle tickets will be sold at a cost of 500 pesos apiece ($26.74) starting March 1; 100 of those tickets will be winning ones, with each lucky holder receiving a cash prize of 20 million pesos (around $1.1 million).
The government will raise 3 billion pesos (around $160 million) if it manages to sell all of the tickets, with 2.5 million pesos of the total to be allocated to purchase medical equipment for hospitals serving low-income communities.
The remaining 500 million pesos in proceeds will be used to maintain the Dreamliner at an air force-run airport, with Lopez Obrador saying that amount would cover those maintenance costs for roughly two years.
The 2 billion pesos in raffle prizes, meanwhile, will come from a fund managed by the so-called “Institute to Return the People What Was Stolen,” a public institution that auctions goods confiscated in operations against organized crime.
Lopez Obrador called on business leaders to help promote the success of the raffle, saying he will meet with 100 of them next Wednesday at Mexico City’s National Palace and try and convince them to purchase tickets and then give them out to their workers.
The president last month outlined a series of options for unloading the Dreamliner, saying the task was not easy because no company would be willing to use an airplane so lavish.
Lopez Obrador asked the public to help him choose from among five possible paths, including selling shares in the presidential plane, trading it for ambulances and even putting it up as the prize in a raffle.
The mention of a raffle inspired a flood of jokes and memes on social media, with people showing edited images of themselves flying the plane to work or parking it outside their small homes.
The Boeing 787 was ordered about eight years ago during the administration of then-President Felipe Calderon and delivered in February 2016 during the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto.
But Lopez Obrador has called it a waste of taxpayer money and has not used it since taking office in December 2018, instead flying on commercial aircraft.
“We apologize to those who accompany us and sometimes get annoyed,” Lopez joked Friday. “Generally I let it be known where I’m going so someone who doesn’t want to fly with me can try to buy (a ticket) for another day.”