Lopez Obrador wants to sell Air Force One to Argentina

The President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with the Mexican Air Force One, on July 27, 2020.Chair (dark room)

In a new chapter on the unknown fate of Mexico’s presidential plane, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he offered it to Argentina. Alberto Fernandez’s government put out a tender last April to replace Tango 01, one of the iconic pieces in Argentina’s presidential air fleet. Having learned about this, he was introduced by the Mexican president, who had spent three and a half years not knowing what to do with the plane he had purchased and used by his predecessors. The carrying capacity, the useful life of the Argentine presidential plane was already exhausted, so we sent them to say, “Here it is, take our plane.” In addition, it is a friendly government,” he commented Thursday at the daily morning conference. The biggest problem is the difference in numbers: Argentina plans to use up to $20 million, less than a fifth of what was offered on Mexican planes.

The Mexican presidential plane has been flying aimlessly since December 2018. The ship was purchased for $218 million in 2012 by the government of Felipe Calderon (2006-2012). He arrived in the country in 2016 during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), who used him for two years until he left office. Upon taking power, López Obrador announced that he would not use it and would instead sell it. Due to the lack of buyers, he conducted a symbolic lottery, in which the winners received the millionaire prizes, but not the plane itself.

The plane, a luxury Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, has become a staple in Lopez Obrador’s management shoes. He has been out of government service for more than three years, and the Mexican president, who travels almost daily, travels by choice on commercial airlines. To avoid a meaningless leak, the Mexican government announced in March of this year that it would rent it for events, weddings and parties lasting 15 years.

The show becomes laughable when seeing the difference in the budgets administered by the two governments, which can come close to a repayment plan, according to the Mexican president. Our plane is valued at $110 million, and has kept $30 million. We still do not exclude that they can give the 30, and then pay the rest on time. “It’s one of those operations or businesses from the Pharaonic era,” Lopez Obrador said Thursday.

Purchased in 1992 during Carlos Menem’s presidency, Tango 01 has become a symbol of the excesses of that ultra-liberal period in Argentina. The $66 million paid by the Argentine state was considered a surplus, at a time when the economy was barely recovering from hyperinflation in 1989.

The then President of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, disembarked from Air Force One Tango 01 in Bolivia, on July 22, 2004.
The then President of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, disembarked from Air Force One Tango 01 in Bolivia, on July 22, 2004.Dado Galdere (AFP)

Over the years, the Boeing 757-200 of the Argentine fleet has become a serious problem. It hasn’t shaved since 2016, but it’s costing the state $200,000 a year, just to prevent its deterioration from becoming irreversible. President Mauricio Macri tried to sell them when he came into government in 2015. The plan was to invest up to $50 million in a new plane, a sum that became increasingly unattainable as economic problems worsened. Without a functioning Air Force One, he was circling the world on commercial and charter flights, like his successor Alberto Fernandez.

The Casa Rosada fleet today has only two small aircraft for domestic flights. In December last year, Fernandez signed a cooperation agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to help him with the technical restoration of Tango 01. The arrangements include complete recycling of the engines and landing trains, as well as the cost of reconfiguration of all computer systems. The value of the repair bill ranges between 15 and 20 million dollars.

Then the ICAO recommended that Casa Rosada use this amount to buy a new aircraft, and offer the old Tango 01 as part of the payment. The Mexican offer may seem tempting, but it is a long way off for Argentina, especially since they will not be able to use the old Air Force One as a bargaining chip.

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