Ending the perks of political leaders

Politicians are supposed to be servants of the people but it is amazing how quickly they learn to see themselves as rulers, demanding perks and privileges going well beyond what their official duties requires or allows. These extend to cars, drivers, private planes, and who knows what else. They acquire a sense of self-importance in which their time and what they do is more important than that of anyone else, with the only exceptions (at least in the US) being big money donors to their campaigns who are grovelingly deferred to.

So I was pleased to see that in Mexico a cabinet minister who used her power to order a plane to return to the gate to pick her up when she was late getting to the airport has been forced to resign because of the new president’s policy that the government must not be above the people.

Mexico’s environment minister has been forced to resign after causing a flight she was about to miss to be delayed by 38 minutes, in direct contravention of her president’s populist promises to rule for the people.

Josefa González Blanco was due to fly from Mexico City to Mexicali, on the US border, last Friday but was held up for reasons that remain unclear.

According to Mexico’s leftwing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the minister then asked an executive from the country’s flagship carrier – with whom she was reportedly friends – to ground the flight while she scrambled to arrive.

“They had to wait for her,” López Obrador said on Saturday as he describedwhat he called a “very regrettable situation”.

One passenger documented the delay on Twitter, claiming Aeroméxico flight 198 was poised to take off when the pilot announced it had to return after a “presidenial order” to collect a tardy passenger. After González Blanco boarded, the onlooker took a photograph of the environment minister, using it to publicly name and shame her.

López Obrador, or Amlo as he is best known, took office last December vowing to spearhead a historic transformation of Mexican society and to govern for poor people.

Central to that pledge is stripping Mexican politicians and civil servants of their privileges, including forcing them to take commercial flights instead of private jets or helicopters. “We cannot have a rich government and a poor people,” Amlo, who even put the presidential plane up for sale on the eve of his inauguration, said last year.

We should demand that political leaders follow the actions of people like López Obrador or former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica and strip these offices of the trappings of power.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    I think Americans tend to be slightly better with this than other countries — at least with politicians (maybe not businesspeople and celebrities). I recall an episode where one of Obama’s ambassadors met one of his counterparts from Japan or someplace similar at an airport. The counterpart was astounded that the American was carrying his own luggage — he had all sorts of flunkies for that kind of lowly stuff.

  2. jrkrideau says

    One perk I do not begrudge cabinet ministers--well cabinet ministers in Canada, I am unsure exactly what a cabinet minister is in the USA --is a chauffeured car.

    It facilitates work, allows busy ministers to arrive at events on time, plus the last thing I want on the road is another idiot on their cell phone while driving..

    Straight abuse of power, such as having a Canadian Forces helicopter pick you up at the end of your fishing trip (Hi Peter) is clearly unethical.

  3. Shanti Rasiah says

    Sri Lankan politicians are the worst offenders of abusing power. Starts from the top so they turn a blind on Ministers
    due to the corruption they are all involved in . They have to stick together to prevent a collapse.

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