In the southern state of Chiapas, an indigenous Tzeltal community of 28 families was forced to leave their territory last month to take refuge on the edge of the large city of Ocosingo. The reason: a criminal group demands from them part of the 20 million pesos (815,000 euros) won in 2020 by the village school in a lottery. This is the latest episode in a barely believable story about the Boeing 787 once used for official travel by the President of Mexico.
When he came to power in December 2018, the left-wing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (whom everyone calls Amlo), wanted to strike people and show his willingness to break with the habits of his predecessors. The presidential plane is the perfect example of the expensive lifestyle of the tenants of Los Pinos, the residence of the heads of state: commissioned by Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was used by his successor Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) in the last two years of his tenure.
Jacuzzis and rounds of golf
Amlo considers this excessive expenditure indecent “In a country with 60 million poor people”, or one inhabitant in two: 210 million euros for this real 5-star flying suite, with bedrooms, living rooms, jacuzzi, gym… The old left-wing adventurer (beaten twice before being elected) even accuses Peña Nieto for using the official plane for his personal comfort, especially his rounds of golf.
The new president therefore announces that from now on, he and his ministers will only travel on commercial flights, and that the VIP plane will be sold, the profits going to social works. One can imagine the ad on Mercadolibre or Segundamano, the Mexican equivalents of Bon Coin: “For sale Boeing 787 registered XC-MEX / TP-01, very little use, luxury services, beautiful finishes. White color. Price negotiable.”
Let’s be honest: this was not the solution chosen. The device was shipped to Victorville, California, for potential buyers to view. The market for large planes with these characteristics is ultra-small: only a handful of billionaires and a few wealthy states could be interested. Forty customers would have made the trip and submitted an offer, but none suited the Mexican state. A year later, in January 2020, the Dreamliner returned from the United States. The operation cost the public finances 1.2 million euros, in the cost of renting the hangar and in maintenance.
Six million banknotes
Amlo or his advisers then think of making the bulky aircraft the jackpot of a raffle. But the idea quickly appears absurd: such a machine is difficult to park for an individual, especially in town. The lottery will therefore allow 100 lucky winners to pocket 20 million pesos each (815,000 euros), the total sum of the winnings (81 million euros, everyone follows?) To be financed by the future sale of the flying palace. .
López Obrador pays in person to promote the airplane lottery, especially since the first few weeks, buyers do not jostle. Six million banknotes (nicely called «Little bits», «little bits ”) are on sale at a price of 500 pesos (20 euros) each, but due to the pandemic, the population does not have the head to the games of chance. Forced to improvise, the presidential team has a brilliant new idea: to buy part of the tickets to offer them to hospitals and schools.
The ubiquitous story is at its height: not only the State uses the proceeds of a sale which has still not taken place, but it buys itself with public funds part of the tickets offered. September 15, 2020, national holiday and the drawing of lots, 78% of tickets have been sold.
Racket in the jungle
The rural primary school in the Tzeltal community of El Nacimiento, in the Chiapas jungle, is one of the winners and has received the promised sum, while other schools across the country complain of having nothing touch. The residents used part of the reward to restore their building, and still had to decide how to use the rest. This is where Providence turns into a nightmare: according to the spokesperson for the village, a criminal gang called Los Petules demanded that they hand over funds to finance their arms purchases. A racket that caused the flight of about sixty people to Ocosingo.
Gag sinister: the school bears the name of José Maria Morelos, an independentist patriot shot by the crown of Spain in 1815. It is also the name given to the bad luck plane. Who, according to the latest news, is still waiting for a buyer, warm in their hangar. The bill continues to climb with the costs of the garage and, icing on the taco, the State (in fact the army, owner in title) still pays the interest of the loan taken in 2012 to acquire it.