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Mexico’s used car restrictions angering dealers, igniting protests in Juarez

For years, Mexico has increased restrictions on the importation of used cars.

The measures, meant to protect its auto industry, have angered used car dealers along the border who rely on cheap imports to make their living.

Thursday morning , hundreds of cars on the U.S. side of the border were ready to be imported into Mexico, their drivers arriving as early as 3 a.m.

These business owners were hoping to be one of the 80 who would be allowed to bring their livelihood to Cd. Juarez. With a line of cars two miles long, the wait can take a week.

“We’ve been here since Monday, getting in at like 3 or 4 a.m. to get ahead in the line, but at this rate it doesn’t look like we’ll get to cross until next Monday,” said Ricardo Portillo, who imports cars into Mexico.

The 80-cars-a-day limit, just a few days old, sparked protests across Juarez as used car lot owners and import agents lashed out at the federal government. The protests quickly turned violent.

Protesters demanding to see the Mexican customs director at the Bridge of the Americas Tuesday and Wednesday stopped commercial traffic.

People who live and work in the area said the line at the Zaragoza Bridge was nearly twice as long as usual. All the commercial traffic that wasn’t able to make it across Wednesday evening was still stuck there Thursday morning.

“Wednesday, only 30 or 40 cars were imported and Thursday only 60, those 100 cars in two days are a joke,” said Jesus Daniel Benavides, an import agent who took part in the protests.

“It also hurts body shops, mechanics, repair and tire shops who all come together to refurbish the cars,” explained Omar Cordero, a used car lot owner.

The protests planned for Thursday were canceled, car lot workers called for a news conference, announcing their intentions: to negotiate with the federal government and respecting peace

For now, the protests will be paused for three days, as recommended by federal police. However, used car dealers tell ABC-7 they will not give up until customs officials go back to allowing them import as many cars as they can during the official import hours.

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