Is México really about to raffle its presidential airplane? That’s the question that I keep getting asked when talking about Mexico’s political state. With Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, anything is possible. Like Donald Trump, AMLO likes to push unconventional issues to distract from what is going on the county. So, what’s the story with the airplane raffle?

The latest presidential airplane was made controversial by AMLO, who uses commercial airlines to travel, who argued that the aircraft was too ostentatious for a “poor” county like México. The word “poor” being relative. AMLO argues that the money to upkeep the airplane and make the dept payments could be used to address problems across the country. One of AMLO’s first orders, when he took office, was to sell the plane. But after millions was spent to an American company to showcase the airplane and keep it airworthy in the U.S., the aircraft was returned to México.

Unable to sell it, AMLO, instead tried to sell fractional hours to private citizens. There is a mechanism in use that allows individuals to purchase blocks of time in an aircraft that otherwise would be too expensive to own outright. It’s like a timeshare, but in this case, you buy flight time on the airplane. It is common.

But the presidential aircraft is configured for head of state use and thus it is not intended for use by civilians, even ultra-rich ones. After not getting any interest in fractional purchases, the AMLO administration tried to offer leases that groups of people could use for the aircraft. That did not work either.

Failing to sell it and lease it, AMLO then proposed holding a nationwide raffle to give the aircraft to a winner. However, that idea soon fizzled as people mocked the idea by using social media memes showing the aircraft parked on top of a taco stand or outside a small house. Clearly, the idea of raffling the aircraft wasn’t going to work either.

But AMLO has painted himself into a corner. He must do something with the airplane.

The latest scheme is to still hold the raffle for the airplane but rather than having someone win the aircraft outright they will win some cash. The current version of the raffle is scheduled for September 15.

In the latest iteration of the scheme, starting on March 1, 6 million “cachitos,” or tickets will be sold at $N500 Pesos each. (about $27USD as of February 10, 2020) It is expected that there will be 100 winners. According to AMLO, the 100 winners will each receive $N200 million Pesos, or about $1 million USD, each.

AMLO has said that any extra money that he generates from the raffle will be used to buy medical equipment for public hospitals.

No there will be no winners taking home the presidential airplane.

This raises the obvious question, what about the airplane? AMLO has said that the raffle is just to give his administration more time to sell the airplane. Clearly, a distraction. The Mexican Airforce will continue to hold and maintain the aircraft in the meantime.

The raffle is not as strange as it may sound to some people outside of México because Mexicans have a long history of buying national raffles (Loteria) in hopes of solving their economic woes.

AMLO continues down the path that he can sell the presidential airplane without taking a loss. The presidential aircraft raffle is just a distraction from his failure to deliver on that promise.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...