06/27/14 (written by cmolzahn) — Mexico’s Federal Judicial Council (Consejo de la Judicatura Federal, CJF) has suspended a federal judge for the second time since 2012, for allegedly issuing regulatory exceptions facilitating the importation of cheap used cars from the United States, known as “chocolate autos.” Veracruz-based federal district judge Daniel José González Vargas was suspended by the CJF without pay, along with Mexicali-based judicial secretary, Ricardo Arreola Villanueva, who works in the court where González was previously based. Arreola had previously worked under González in Mexicali, before the latter was transferred to Veracruz to facilitate the inquiry into his professional conduct.
González was also suspended in May of 2012 for two months alongside Mexicali judge José André Nalda, also amidst allegations for issuing rulings favorable to automobile importers. The CJF, the agency responsible for overseeing Mexico’s federal courts, suspended González and Arreola indefinitely pending an investigation. According to Proceso, the CJF took months to act on the allegations against González and Arreola, accused of favoring importers of the vehicles from the United States, which can be legally licensed in Mexico, despite violating federal customs law. The suspension will last as long as it takes the CJF to conduct its investigation into González and Arreola.
Mexican auto industry leaders say the vehicles are detrimental to their operations, as they bypass many of the environmental and bureaucratic regulations to which domestically produced vehicles are subjected, notably environmental inspections. In July of last year, Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN) rejected a claim from three used car importers that Mexico’s environmental regulations regarding emissions of used cars are in conflict with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
These “chocolate autos” are found primarily in states that border the United States. In February, Guillermo Rosales, director of institutional relations of the Mexican Association of Automobile Distributors (Asociación Mexicana de Distribuidores de Automotores, AMDA), denounced the state of Chihuahua for issuing license plates to these cars, of which he said there are more than 100,000 in that state alone, of a nationwide total of over 644,000. This month, Eduardo Solís, president of the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (Asociación Mexicana de la Industria Automotriz, (AMIA), applauded the measures taken against González and Arreola, and urged the CJF to continue sanctioning other judges guilty of similar irregularities. Solís has long decried the lax enforcement of automobile import regulations, as well as corruption in the judiciary and local politicians using promises to legitimize “chocolate cars” as campaign talking points.