Spanish – Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) promised austerity. The most significant cutback so far has been in healthcare. To offset this, he is offering to buy medicines with money from the sale of the presidential plane.
This is a clear display of populism. AMLO will show off his act of generosity by handing over money to the people, supposedly from the sale of the aircraft. In reality, he is the one who had snatched this money from the healthcare budget to invest in a baseball team.
The 350 million Mexican pesos (18.7 million USD) that he reduced from the health budget is equivalent to what he spent only in 2019 to promote this sport, of which he is an enthusiast. If he maintains this spending throughout his term (six years), he will spend 2.1 billion Mexican pesos (112 million USD) on baseball.
According to Hugo López Gatell, the Deputy Health Secretary of the Ministry of Health (SSA), 2,449 million Mexican pesos (131 million USD) are required to buy MRIs, angiography and tomography equipment, linear accelerators, ambulances, beds, X-rays, sterilizers, ventilators, stretchers, and other items.
The president authorized a 44% cut in the budget of the Mexican Institute of Social Security (IMSS). The ones most affected are HIV patients (antiretrovirals required by immunodeficiency patients have been reduced by 50%), newborn babies, babies in the womb, children with cancer, and isolated indigenous communities who have lost their flight service to the nearest health center and now have to walk up to eight hours to get there.
To raise the funds that are lacking, López Obrador proposes raffling off the presidential plane José María Morelos and using the funds to create “a cooperative for medical teams and hospitals where poor people are treated for free.”
Following the 44% cut in the health budget by AMLO’s administration, 24 of the 31 Mexican states reported medicine and staff shortages.
Por esto los traen distraídos con rifas absurdas!
Para que nadie vea que ayer la Secretaría de Salud emitió un acuerdo para permitir que China e India vendan medicamentos en México, equiparando sus métodos técnicos de evaluación a los de USA, la Unión Europea y Canadá???? pic.twitter.com/bCIzOMd1w5
— Max Kaiser (@MaxKaiser75) January 29, 2020
Demagoguery with the presidential plane: an Argentine invention
What is happening today in Mexico is not new. It has already happened in Argentina. The president who promised to sell the presidential plane did not finish his term but escaped the country by helicopter amid a banking crisis.
After Carlos Menem’s administration dominated a large part of the 1990s, Fernando de la Rúa’s campaign decided to work in a way that contrasted the “pizza with champagne” years.
Besides the famous “they say I am boring” commercial, where the Radical Civic Union candidate turned his perceived weaknesses into strengths, one of the most talked-about topics in the campaign was Rúa’s intention to sell Tango 01, the presidential airplane.
In a short 20-second video, a voice-over asked de la Rúa about the plane, and the then head of the Buenos Aires city government had an emphatic response:
-What is going to happen with the famous presidential plane?
-It is nice; it is very nice. But I am selling it! This time, the politicians will adjust, not the people. You will see…
There is no doubt that the campaign was a success. In those days, many Argentines proudly expressed their vote for the Alliance after the announcement that sought to change the style of the supposed Menemist opulence.
Fernando de la Rúa became president, and the sale of the plane was one of many unfulfilled promises. Not because the radical leader did not want to keep his promise, but because there was no buyer. The airplane, which had a private suite with a double bed, television, bathroom, hairdresser’s space, presidential office, dining room, and VIP sector, was put to rest in the official hangars, while the president (who was only in office for two years, since he had to resign in December 2001) traveled by commercial airplanes so as not to make a fool of himself given what he had promised.
The Alliance government ended up failing because it did not dare to cut spending where it mattered and found itself mired in a debt crisis. Tango 01 was used until the beginning of Mauricio Macri’s administration and was withdrawn in January 2016 due to technical complications, which no longer guaranteed the security of the presidential trips.
So the idea of selling the plane is not new. And López Obrador’s promise of austerity, which so far has not been materialized, would only be a sign of the crisis Mexico is facing with the policies promoted by the Mexican president, who takes money from citizens’ healthcare to spend on baseball.
This article was written in collaboration with Marcelo Duclos.