TIJUANA (Border Report) — Since Mexico’s president offered amnesty to owners of so-called “chocolate cars,” about 80,000 people have been registered their vehicles in Baja California.
Chocolate cars are vehicles that have been imported into Mexico from the United States over the years but were never registered by owners as a way to avoid paying taxes and registration fees mostly in border cities such as Tijuana.
The term “chocolate” is a play on the word “chueco,” which means crooked, and is used by the public to describe cars that aren’t legal.
Recently, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, offered amnesty to anyone who wanted to finally register their vehicle for a minimal fee.
“We got this program going, registering cars with foreign origin once the order came down last October, it enabled many people to rush in and register their cars,” said Jorge Gutierrez, director of the Institute for Vehicle Identity and Prevention of Environmental Contamination.
According to Gutierrez, on average, 1,000 cars are being registered per day.
Mexicans have always been allowed to legally import cars, but the vehicles have to be fairly new while meeting pollution and safety standards, and people must pay fees.
As a way to avoid this, many chose to simply bring in older cars in questionable working condition.
These cars have been rarely, if ever, been confiscated from their owners.
It’s believed that in Mexico, there are up to 18 million cars that have been illegally imported from the United States, making up more than a third of all the automobiles in the country.
The cost to register one of these “chocolate cars” is about $120.