Luxurious vehicles seized from criminals in Mexico and Argentina are being handed over for use by police forces, despite their reputation for corruption and involvement in organized crime.
In April, ten high-performance vehicles seized from organized crime groups were given to police in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. The automobiles included a Chevrolet Camaro, a Mustang, two Cadillacs and a Corvette – all valued between $26,200 and $146,000.
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The previous year, in Argentina, police in Buenos Aires were gifted five vehicles confiscated during a raid on a drug trafficking gang in late 2017. The police planned to re-use the cars – among them high-end brands like Audi and Mercedes – to patrol certain roads and highways in the province of Buenos Aires.
“Taking back these vehicles to boost security gives us strength to keep fighting the scourge of drugs,” the security minister for Buenos Aires, Cristian Ritondo, explained at the hand-over last year. “What was once used for wrongdoing has been recycled for good.”
Other state forces are also making the most of seized assets. In May 2018, the Argentinian Navy added a confiscated Ferrari to its ranks, worth $300,000, alongside a yacht which belonged to former government operative Ricardo Jaime, who was arrested on corruption charges.
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Though incorporating confiscated sport cars into police fleets provides an easy means of re-using assets seized from organized crime, sceptics will likely question the logic behind transferring luxurious sport cars to a branch of the state frequently accused of misconduct, as is the case in both Mexico and Argentina.
In both countries, handing over high-performance vehicles to state actors potentially involved in organized crime may prove an unwise move, as well as likely unpopular with members of the public who lack trust in the police force.
Guanajuato, the Mexican state whose police received several confiscated high-end vehicles, recorded 1,058 cases of police corruption in 2017, according to a survey conducted by Mexico’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía – INEGI).
But this problem is seen nationwide, with officers highly susceptible to corruption due to a lack of adequate training, support and low salaries. Despite promises of reform, the Mexican police are the least trusted branch of the county’s security forces, according to a 2018 national poll commissioned by the Chamber of Deputies.
In Mexico, this policy is also at odds with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s stated commitment to austerity. Since taking office early this year, the country’s leader has sold off the executive limo and private jet, and no longer lives in the country’s presidential palace – a contrasting image to police officers patrolling the streets in souped-up sports cars.
Corruption also plagues law enforcement in Argentina. In Buenos Aires alone, 9,236 police officers were removed from duty between December 2015 and April 2018. 625 were arrested on various criminal charges, including corruption and drug violations.