By David Alire Garcia
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – The big, luxurious airplane used to ferry Mexico’s former president around the globe is about to fly away permanently in one of the first moves by the new president to rid the country of what he has derided as a towering symbol of excess.
“We are selling all the planes and helicopters that the corrupt politicians used,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told a rally in Xalapa, Veracruz, near the end of his first full day as president. The crowd roared its approval.
Finance Minister Carlos Urzua convened a news conference in Mexico City earlier on Sunday, attended by a small army of local reporters in front of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to announce that the plane will “very soon” be put up for sale.
Photographers and camera crews were then ushered into the aircraft to see for themselves the spacious interior emblazoned with official government seals on the walls and flat-screen monitors, as well as the presidential bedroom and what appeared to be a marble-lined bathroom.
The $218 million presidential jet acquired in late 2012 is one of 60 government planes that will be sold, in addition to 70 helicopters, said Urzua.
It will be flown on Monday to the Victorville airport in southern California at Boeing’s recommendation as it awaits a new owner, according to a statement by the finance ministry.
At the rally, Lopez Obrador ticked off other populist campaign promises, including ending the pensions for ex-presidents and a pay cut for senior government officials that he described as significant money savers.
On Saturday morning, just before his formal inauguration, , the veteran leftist ordered the doors open at Los Pinos, the opulent residence of Mexican presidents dating back eight decades.
Families lounged in the gardens, ran through corridors to peek into offices and rooms, and listened to musical ensembles that were invited to play.
Known for his frugal living, Lopez Obrador has often said he will not live at Los Pinos, and instead will convert the sprawling property into a cultural centre.
Lopez Obrador won a landslide election victory in large part by seizing on widespread disgust with Mexico’s governing elite, viewed by many as out-of-touch and deeply corrupt.
(Reporting by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Sandra Maler)