Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – Mexico’s leftist president-elect says he will slash his salary by 60 percent when he takes office in December, cancel government pensions paid to former presidents, and sell the presidential jet as part of wide-ranging austerity and anti-corruption measures.
“I will not board that plane,” Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters at a press conference, referring to the $218 million Boeing Dreamliner purchased by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration in 2016.
Obrador said his transition team is looking into selling the plane – “without losing money” – back to the manufacturer.
The president-elect said his administration will also sell off most of the government’s fleet of 118 non-military helicopters.
Obrador recently announced he intends to cancel the purchase of eight Seahawk helicopters valued at $1.36 billion. The sale was approved by the Pentagon in April, according to news reports.
“The purchase will be cancelled because we can’t make the expense,” Obrador said at the press conference.
Obrador said that upon taking office he will cut the president’s salary by 60 percent.
Peña Nieto is paid the equivalent of $171,900 annually, according to Obrador’s website.
Obrador also said he will not live in the presidential residence known as Los Pinos, located next to Mexico City’s sprawling Chapultepec Park. It will be turned into a cultural and arts center, he said, without disclosing where he does plan to live as president.
Then-President Lázaro Cárdenas made the English chalet-style home the official presidential office and residence in 1934.
The proposed austerity plan will include the elimination of pensions paid to former presidents, beginning with the new administration’s 2019 budget. During the campaign, Obrador claimed that Mexico’s ex-presidents are paid as much as $10,000 a month in pensions.
The austerity plan also contemplates a 50 percent reduction in salaries and benefits paid to high-level government officials.
Obrador told journalists his team has been unable to verify what federal government employees are paid – and he challenged the press to investigate.
“There isn’t a Mexican who really knows. We tried and we don’t know what the payroll of the federal government is.”
“I am very serious about reducing the salaries of high-level government functionaries. How much public officials are paid should be known by the public.”
Any high-level government employee earning more than one million pesos (around $52,500) annually would have his or her salary cut by half.
Lucia Petersen of the citizens’ anti-corruption group Transparencia Mexicana said the proposed cuts to government salaries have caused controversy among activists and public servants, and the impact of such cuts needs to be taken into consideration.
“That is the part that many specialists would like to understand better,” she said in an email to CNSNews.com. “How will progress be measured and how will we know if they have achieved the expected results?”
Obrador’s plans are part of a 50-point program he announced on Sunday which includes anti-corruption measures he vowed while campaigning to enact.
“This is what the voters asked for, that is why they voted for us, because they want to see corruption ended,” he said.
Obrador wants to remove protections written into Mexico’s constitution that prohibit the president from being prosecuted for acts of corruption and election fraud.
He also wants to end protection from prosecution enjoyed by public officials, says all government officials will be required to disclose their financial assets, and will prohibit officials from hiring family members.
Government spying on Mexican citizens would also be ended, according to the program.
Experts say the government has actively spied on citizen activists using sophisticated computer code to record cellphone conversations.
Petersen of Transparencia Mexicana said that only a few of the president-elect’s proposals actually address corruption, per se.
“Some are about mechanisms to reduce public spending, others seek to define ‘privileges,’ and a different set refers to measures for efficient public spending,” she said.