MEXICO CITY – Efforts to sell Mexico’s presidential jet appear to be going well, but a simultaneous effort to sell lottery tickets depicting the plane is struggling.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday that only about a quarter of the six million tickets have been sold, in part because ticket sellers have been unable to hit the streets because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The economic effects of the partial lockdown have also apparently made many Mexican somewhat less willing to part with the $22.50 each ticket costs, roughly a week's wages for the lowest-paid workers.
With the Sept. 15 lottery drawing less than two months away, López Obrador is facing the possibility the lottery might actually lose money, rather than achieving its stated goal of collecting funds to buy medical equipment.
With only about 1.5 million tickets sold, the lottery currently is covering only about 38% of the guaranteed prize money of $90 million. Other administrative costs could put the government deeper into the hole. The prize money will be divided into 20 equal parts.
The president urged businessmen to buy blocks of tickets and hand them out to their employees or at schools, and unions to hand them out to their members.
“There is little time left until Sept. 15, and we have to sell those tickets,” López Obrador said, as he stood in front of the jet at a hangar at Mexico City's international airport. The drawing date coincides with Mexico's Independence day.
The jet, like the lottery, is full of symbolism for López Obrador, who has refused to even step foot into the Boeing Dreamliner since he took office in December 2018. He says the jet represents the opulence of past administrations that bought or used the plane. The plane’s interior includes an elegant office, kingsize bed, shower and treadmill.
López Obrador prefers to travel by road or in regular airline seats, which he did when he visited the United States in early July and met President Donald Trump.
Originally, he vowed to raffle off the plane, which drew jokes about where the winner would park the jet. The lottery, whose tickets bear a picture of the plane but which carry no promise of ownership of it, was apparently an afterthought aimed at capitalizing on its notoriety.
The plane itself will be sold outright, and López Obrador said there are now two bidders, one of whom is offering a mix of cash and medical equipment for the jet. That buyer has already put down a $1 million deposit and signed an initial contract, but the president said that last week another all-cash offer has emerged.
The government estimates the plane is worth $120 million; it has not said who the potential buyers are. It was purchased in 2012 for about $200 million. Experts consider it too expensive to reconfigure the plane to seat the usual 300 passengers a commercial version would carry.