‘Chocolate car’ crackdown underway in Tijuana, starting at the border


Cars drive in to Mexico at El Chaparral port of entry in Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on June 17, 2019. (GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP via Getty Images)

TIJUANA (Border Report) — In addition to regulating so-called “chocolate cars” in Baja California, Mexican customs officials have agreed to start refusing anyone driving one from entering the country.

“Chocolate cars” is a term used to describe illegally imported vehicles with U.S. license plates driven by residents south of the border. Many people in cities like Tijuana buy cars in border states such as California and never register them in Mexico, saving money on the fees. In turn, the country also loses money on these vehicles.

Last week, Mexican officials announced that people must “legalize” their cars to avoid possibly losing them. The fee was set at 3,500 pesos or about $170.

Chocolate cars already in Mexico will be grandfathered in and are eligible for registration.

But from now on, vehicles driven into Mexico will be subject to inspections at the border and will not be allowed to enter the country.

“Customs has the data as to when cars come in, they can tell who is trying to take advantage to bring a car into Mexico, this only applies to vehicles coming in since the registration campaign was announced,” said Mario Escobedo, Secretary of Sustainable Economy and Tourism.

Escobedo said cars that aren’t registered will be taken off the road.

“This is meant for cars that are already in Baja California. And even though they are illegal, they are part of our culture. The idea is to allow people to legalize their cars,” said Escobedo. “This is creating a problem because these cars are being sold on the street without any certainty they aren’t stolen, there’s no way to identify them, plates may not be accurate, there are no guarantees.”

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