MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gave details on Friday of a raffle aimed at covering the cost of a luxury presidential plane he has struggled to sell, clarifying that winners will get $1 million in cash rather than the plane itself.
Mexico has yet to find a buyer for the $130 million Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which the leftist Lopez Obrador has cast as a symbol of excess and corruption in previous governments in a country where around half the population lives in poverty.
Last month, Lopez Obrador floated the idea of raffling off the plane itself. The plan caused some hilarity in Mexico as humorists tried to imagine what an ordinary citizen would do with the large and opulent aircraft.
On Friday, however, Lopez Obrador made clear that the 100 holders of winning tickets would get $1 million in cash. The raffle aims to raise some 3 billion pesos, or about $160 million, with sales to begin on March 1.
“We’re doing this so that we don’t auction it off cheaply, so that we aren’t in a rush,” Lopez Obrador said. “I’m sure that all the tickets will be sold,” said Lopez Obrador.
As well as the cash prizes, the lottery would raise about $53 million dollars for public hospitals, the president said.
Attempts will continue to sell, or lease, the spacious jet, which has been reconfigured to fly only 80 people, has a large “presidential suite” and a private bath.
The winning tickets – selected from 6 million sold – will be announced on Sept. 15, the day before Mexican Independence Day.
Lopez Obrador has made a point of crisscrossing Mexico aboard commercial flights, often taking fellow passengers by surprise. He has auctioned off many smaller government planes and helicopters.
The specially outfitted Boeing 787 Dreamliner was acquired in 2012 at the start of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s six-year term.
(Reporting by Raul Cortes Fernandez, Noe Torres and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Toby Chopra and Steve Orlofsky)