Mexico readies sale of former president's luxurious plane

  04 December 2018    Read: 959
Mexico readies sale of former president

The luxurious plane used to transport Mexico's former president around the world 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 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, on Sunday.

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 campaign promises, including ending the pensions for former 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.

Known for his frugal lifestyle, Lopez Obrador said he will not live at Los Pinos, and instead will convert the sprawling property into a cultural centre.

A new presidency

The new president inherits a sticky set of problems from his unpopular predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto, and other administrations.

They include deeply entrenched corruption, violence fueled by the war on drug cartels and the caravan of 6,000 Central American migrants and refugees camped at the US-Mexican border.

Lopez Obrador, a former protest leader and Mexico City mayor, has been short on specifics regarding some of his plans for these problems.

But what he is promising, first and foremost, is a presidency like no other in Mexican history.

"Today we begin the fourth political transformation of Mexico," he said during his inauguration on Saturday. "It may seem pretentious or exaggerated, but today not only begins a new government, today begins a change of political regime".

"We will carry out a peaceful and orderly, but also deep and radical transformation."

After the traditional swearing-in ceremony, he travelled to Mexico City's Zocalo square for a second ceremony of his own design, with tens of thousands of his supporters in attendance.

"Now we are going to be listened to by our president," Maria del Rosario Garcia, a Mexican citizen told Al Jazeera from the square. "That is the change I voted for and why I'm here. It's the first time in my 46 years that I have come to this type of thing," she added.

Despite the optimism among his supporters, Lopez Obrador has inherited a sticky set of challenges which he has done little to address with specific policies so far.

"He has said that everything is going to be pulled off by cutting corruption, but cutting corruption is not only a matter of political will," Marco Fernandez, an anti-corruption expert told Al Jazeera. "It's a matter of constructing effective institutions, and so far in the measures, he has announced there is no institution building as a priority of the new government."

Violence, huge challenge

For the past 12 years, the Mexican state has fought violent drug gangs by deploying thousands of police, soldiers and intelligence officers to crack down on cartels and their leaders.

Last year was the deadliest year in two decades, with over 23,000 murders, an increase of 10.7 percent compared with 2016.

In 2018, there were more than 18,000 murders in the first seven months, a 20 percent jump compared with the same period in 2017, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

If the trend continues, 2018 is set to be the most violent year ever in Mexico.

In response, Obrador has announced the creation of a 60,000 strong national guard force made up of army, navy and other federal police that will battle crime, while a constitutional reform will be pursued to cement the new strategy.

A second phase will add additional military forces to the effort.

"The people of Mexico need their armed forces to address this grave problem of insecurity and violence right now," said Lopez Obrador.

In the lead-up to the election, Obrador promised to rewrite the rules of the drug war, suggesting negotiated peace and amnesties for some of those who are currently being targeted by members of the security forces, and by removing the military from the streets.

But later he admitted that the federal police was not ready to replace the armed forces.

"They [state and municipal police] are almost not working, to say it with diplomacy ... they are not fulfilling their responsibility," Lopez Obrador said in August. "This is the bitter reality."

Over the past dozen years, Mexican security forces have toppled some high-profile drug kingpins but more than 200,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands more disappeared since a military-focused approach was initiated in 2006.

 

AL JAZEERA


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