The limited distribution of free tickets to see Pope Francis in Mexico spurred a temporary black market as scalpers cashed in on his trip by trading tickets online.
A single ticket to a papal Mass sold for 3,000 pesos (US$150), nearly 40 times the daily minimum wage, while an advertisement offered an apartment with a balcony for the papal parade for 22,000 pesos (US$,1,150), more than the priciest ticket for Mexico’s Formula One auto race last year.
The church and government were unsurprisingly critical of those who had capitalized on the papal visit.
Monsignor Luis Martínez Flores is a priest and the director of communications for the diocese of Ecatepec, one of five locations the pope visited in Mexico. He said that various people had contacted him on social networks to report the problem of ticket scalping, despite the fact that all tickets were clearly labeled as free. “We have used various methods of communication to let people know that they are not for sale and that they are only given out by the diocese,” Martinez Flores said.
One scalper, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Guadalajara Reporter that he had sold two tickets for 3,000 pesos each. He defended his action by comparing his own profiteering to that of the authorities. According to him, the zone of Ecatepec where the papal Mass was held had been completely revamped by a government hoping to show a false image of Mexico.
“If you’d have visited 20 days earlier you’d have seen the real Ecatepec but now it looks completely different,” he said. “In reality, it is among the zones with the highest levels of crime and violence in Mexico … They tidied it and repainted it all. There was a lot of interest from the government in cleaning up any part the pope might see.”
Martinez Flores pointed out that the “pope had specifically chosen to visit those places in Mexico that suffer most.”
He also defended the government’s decision to repaint and repave the papal route. “When we host important people it is perfectly normal to tidy the house,” he said.
Allan Lopez, a spokesperson for the government of Ecatepec said that while it was illegal to sell papal tickets, it was not a crime that could result in a prison term. “It is regarded as a type of fraud and would likely lead to a fine or a detention of several hours,” Lopez said.