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Mexico's sale of presidential 'pride of a nation' plane fails to take off

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s president said on Tuesday the government has so far failed to sell his predecessor’s luxury $130 million plane that he has slammed as a trapping of power and opulence of an out-of-touch ruling elite.

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The Boeing 787 Dreamliner will return to Mexico after a year-long stay in California as the government explores other options, including sale to a group of buyers or renting it by the hour, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said.

The leftist, who lives frugally and takes commercial flights, made selling the plane a campaign promise along with running an austere government and prioritising the poor.

“Luxury planes have nothing to do with the reality of poverty that exists in our country,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference. “It’s an expression of two worlds: the world of the people and the world of the rulers.”

“The officials felt like kings, they were like a ... monarchy with lives full of luxury and privilege,” he added.

The presidential jet was acquired by former President Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012. It is one of more than 70 government planes and helicopters slated for auction.

The government said it had received two offers above value for the aircraft, which a promotional brochure dubbed the “pride of a nation” alongside photos of its marble bathroom, king-size bed and plush seats for 80 passengers.

However, Lopez Obrador said the potential buyers were unable to secure financing and the deals fell through.

“We want to resolve this already,” he said. “The longer we have this fleet, the more it costs us.”

The plane’s storage and upkeep in California had cost Mexico some 30 million pesos ($1.60 million), the president said. The plane was in California to be exhibited for potential buyers and to undergo maintenance work, he said.

Lopez Obrador said there had been discussions with the United States about a possible sale via payment in exchange for X-ray machines, ambulances and other medical equipment.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Dave Graham and Bill Berkrot