Mexico creating 100 millionaires with presidential jet 'raffle'

MEXICO-AIRPLANE/

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's national lottery is set to create 100 millionaires with a much-hyped raffle that the government has tied to a luxury presidential jet slammed as a symbol of the corrupt excesses condoned by its predecessors.

The total prize money loosely represents the value of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has promised to sell to raise funds for social programs.

Mexico has struggled to find a buyer for the jet, and the raffle was conceived as an alternative way of generating funds, specifically for the public health sector.

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Mexico's presidential jet 'raffle'
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Mexico's presidential jet 'raffle'
A woman holds a sheet of lottery tickets for a Mexico luxury presidential plane, at a raffle ticket booth in Mexico City, Mexico March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
A man shows his lottery ticket for a Mexico luxury presidential plane after he bought it at a raffle ticket booth as Mexico's government on Monday made a final push to sell lottery tickets for the value of the last president's luxury jet, in Mexico City, Mexico September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero
A girl holds a sign with the number 6 during a lottery raffle for the value of the last president's luxury plane at the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A man puts winning numbers on the board during a lottery raffle for the value of the last president's luxury plane at the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
Children hold signs with numbers during a lottery raffle for the value of the last president's luxury plane at the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A girl holds lottery balls during a lottery raffle for the value of the last president's luxury plane at the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico, September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A person sells lottery tickets for the raffle of a presidential luxury jet, organised by the Mexico's government to raise money equivalent to the value of the airplane, outside the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A person holds lottery tickets for the raffle of a presidential luxury jet, organised by the Mexico's government to raise money equivalent to the value of the airplane, outside the National Lottery building in Mexico City, Mexico September 15, 2020. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
A Mexican lottery salesperson arranges lottery tickets for a Mexico luxury presidential plane for sale at a raffle ticket booth as Mexico's government on Monday made a final push to sell lottery tickets for the value of the last president's luxury jet, in Mexico City, Mexico September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Artisan Dalton Ramirez holds a pinata of Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holding a scale model of the presidential plane and mock lottery tickets for its raffle, at his workshop in Reynosa, Mexico March 12, 2020. Picture taken March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
A man holds two lottery tickets for a Mexico luxury presidential plane, at a raffle ticket booth in Mexico City, Mexico March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
Lottery tickets for a Mexico luxury presidential plane are seen for sale at a raffle ticket booth , in Mexico City, Mexico March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
A pinata of Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holding a scale model of the presidential plane and mock lottery tickets for its raffle, is pictured outside the workshop of artisan Dalton Ramirez in Reynosa, Mexico March 12, 2020. Picture taken March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Daniel Becerril
A Mexican lottery salesman shows lottery tickets for a Mexico luxury presidential plane for sale at a raffle ticket booth as Mexico's government on Monday made a final push to sell lottery tickets for the value of the last president's luxury jet, in Mexico City, Mexico September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero
FILW - This Dec. 3, 2018 file photo provided by the Mexican Presidential press office shows the presidential airplane at the presidential hangar at Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City. Mexico is trying to sell its luxurious presidential jet to Canada, but will raffle the plane off if the Canadians don't want it, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Mexican Presidential press office via AP, File)
This undated photo provided by Mexico's presidential press office shows a seating area inside Mexico's presidential plane. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 that the raffle of the luxurious Boeing Dreamliner will actually be symbolic, awarding total prize money of $100 million, which lottery tickets state is "equivalent to the value of the presidential jet." López Obrador flies tourist class on commercial flights and views the jet, bought for more than $200 million by his predecessor, as wasteful. (Mexico's presidential press office via AP)
In this photo provided by Mexico's Presidential Press Office, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stands in front of an image of a raffle ticket featuring the presidential plane, in his morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Friday, Feb. 7, 2020. Lopez Obrador announced that the raffle of the Boeing Dreamliner will be symbolic, awarding total prize money of $100 million, which lottery tickets state is "equivalent to the value of the presidential jet." (Mexico's Presidential Press Office via AP)
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Children mixed the balls in brass spheres before drawing numbers to make up 100 winning combinations in a spectacle that was transmitted on live television as part of independence day festivities.

Held at the headquarters of the national lottery, which was founded in 1770 by Spain's King Carlos III, the raffle is part of Lopez Obrador's efforts to cast himself as a leader freeing the country from decades of graft.

Out of 6 million tickets offered, 100 winners can claim 20 million pesos each, or just under $1 million. By last week, only 70% of the tickets had been sold, but a flurry of last-minute interest led to long lines at lottery booths.

It was not immediately clear how many tickets were sold by the 2:00 p.m. (1900 GMT) cut-off, but smiling buyers crowded some booths in the capital and in the south of the country.

Lopez Obrador has promised that proceeds will go mainly toward chronically underfunded public hospitals. Authorities did not announce the names of the winners, which could include health clinics given hundreds of tickets by the government.

The prize money is partly funded by sales of confiscated property, including items taken from alleged drug traffickers. Critics say the event is an inefficient use of scarce funds that should instead be directly assigned in the budget.

Over the past week, government officials and allies have intensely marketed the 500 peso ($24) tickets. One government agency spent about $24 million on the event and some public workers complained they were obliged to take part.

(Reporting by David Alire Garcia and Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and David Gregorio)

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