Why Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is getting rid of his $200m presidential jet
With the hashtag #austeridad (austerity), the new Mexican President’s administration tweeted that the nation’s version of Air Force One was going up for sale.
- Mr Obrador, a populist on the left, was elected with the biggest support in Mexican history
- He is honouring a pledge made on the campaign trail in September that he “won’t be getting on a presidential jet”
- More than 43 per cent of Mexico’s 129 million citizens live in poverty, according to the Mexican Government
It will come complete with a double-bed bedroom, plush leather seating for personal staff and what appears to be a marble bathroom.
The $US200 million-plus Dreamliner 787-8 is now jetting off to California to be prepped for a new purchaser.
Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or simply AMLO, is a populist on the left.
He was elected with the biggest support (53 per cent) in modern Mexican history.
Mexico’s new President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during his inauguration ceremony on December 1. (Reuters: Henry Romero)
Mr Lopez Obrador even founded his own party — Morena or “national regeneration movement” — to compete with the PRI, which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, then again from 2012 until last week.
Selling Mexico’s state-owned plane comes after a pledge made on the campaign trail in September that he wouldn’t be “getting on a presidential jet”.
“It would pain me,” he said. “I would hang my head in shame to get on such a luxury jet in a country with so much poverty.”
Of Mexico’s 129 million citizens, more than 43 per cent live in poverty, according to the Mexican Government.
Also among the new President’s first public acts was to throw open the doors of the huge presidential compound Los Pinos, declaring the mansion and its massive gardens a public museum.
A children’s band from the state of Oaxaca led a procession through the ostentatious property.
AMLO has vowed to live in an apartment or house near the presidential palace — his office.
‘For the good of all, the poor must come first’
The newly-elected 65-year-old Mexican leader was born in the state of Tabasco. One of his first jobs after graduating university was working with the state’s Indigenous Institute.
His main 2018 campaign theme was “por el bien de todos, primero los pobres” — “for the good of all, the poor must come first”.
Mr Lopez Obrador has also been fighting against corruption in the Mexican political system for decades, something that this year clearly inspired Mexicans who were sick of both major parties.
The new President also comes with past governing experience. He was Mayor of Mexico City for six years, a metropolis of 9 million people inside the federal district which numbers more than 20 million.
This was his third tilt at the presidency. In 2012, he lost to multimillionaire Enrique Pena Nieto, who Mexicans had become increasingly sick of over the six years he was in power.
A bed inside the luxurious Mexican version of US President Donald Trump’s Air Force One jet. (Supplied)
Former first lady Angelica Rivera was a glamorous singer, model and telenovela actress.
The wife of the new President, Beatriz Gutierrez Muller, has already rejected the traditional role of “primera dama”, or first lady.
Instead she is rolling up her sleeves to work as the National Coordinator of Mexican Historical Memory and Culture.
In his first words as President, Lopez Obrador vowed not to “lie, rob and betray” the people.
Preferential treatment for indigenous people
Among the top of his 100 promises, his Government’s programs would give preferential treatment to Mexico’s indigenous people.
He has pledged that the poor will be attended to, and promised scholarships to poverty-struck students from primary school to university.
UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn was a personal guest of honour on the eve of AMLO’s inauguration. Also attending the ceremony was US Vice-President Mike Pence.
There were protests against the visit of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, who only came for the official reception meal.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (centre) has promised to give preferential treatment to indigenous people. (AP: Moises Castillo)
So far, AMLO says he is getting along well with US President Donald Trump.
As one newspaper pointed out: “Trump plays poker, AMLO plays chess.”
In a sign of the changes ahead for Mexico, Mr Lopez Obrador has signalled he is prepared to legalise marijuana and even decriminalise the use of poppy cultivation for purely medicinal purposes.
In a speech in August, the now Secretary for the Interior, Olga Sanchez Cordero, said Mexico would ask the UN to help endorse such major drug law changes.
How that would change the current drug wars in Mexico is a moot point — 2017 was the most violent year in the past two decades with 26,573 deaths, or 73 per day.
So before the really hard work begins, the new President is beginning with grand gestures of change.
For now, Mr Lopez Obrador is committed to flying commercial with the rest of us.
Mr Lopez Obrador said he would hang his head in shame “to get on such a luxury jet in a country with so much poverty”. (Supplied)