The Chapala government is committed to putting a stop to corrupt practices by traffic police and going strictly by the book in dealing with motorists who violate the rules of the road.
That was the upshot of the public meeting tailored for English speakers, held Friday, November 16, at the Lake Chapala Society. The gathering started promptly on schedule and ran 60 minutes as announced.
City hall foreign community liaison Hector España coordinated the program. He started by introducing his personal expat assistant Harry Bublin and seven municipal officials, who fielded questions on traffic issues.
The panel included Municipal Traffic Department Director Gerardo Bautista, his operations chief Alejandro Casteñeda and bilingual traffic agents Fernando López Rameño and Javier Delgado Luévano, along with Chapala Public Security Director Amador Bahena, sub-commander Gustavo Anaya and Gastón de la Torre, the municipality’s head of culture and tourism. Also in attendance was Juan José Calvillo, a state traffic officer representing the lakeside branch of Jalisco’s Secretaria de Movilidad (Semov).
The meeting initially focused on one particular state traffic officer assigned to the Lake Chapala region, who has a reputation for shaking down foreigners. Commonly referred to on the grapevine as El Gordo, his real name is Carlos Camarena. With a show of hands from those in the audience, around 20 people indicated that they had been subjected to harassment and paid mordidas (bribes) to the cop in question.
According to Bautista, he has been put on notice that he is in the sights of local authorities.
For drivers who experience intimidation from any traffic officer, he gave out telephone numbers they can call for immediate assistance to nip the problem in the bud. Dial 332-161-5903 (cel) to reach an English-speaking public security officer who will come to the rescue. Contact the Chapala traffic department office at (376) 765-2124 or call Bautista directly at 331-566-3440.
Asked why Camerena hasn’t already been fired or transferred to another jurisdiction for his misdeeds, Calvillo explained that matters of conduct and corruption are handled by senior officials at Semov headquarters in Guadalajara, based on written complaints and corroborating evidence. Grievances registered verbally or through social media do not suffice. (Lake Chapala Society Director Terry Vidal noted that complaint forms that specify requisite data are available at the LCS office.)
In reference to proper procedures in stopping motorists for traffic violations, Calvillo stated that Semov officers are required to wear official ID badges at all times and must immediately inform the driver of the reason he or she has been pulled over. The motorist will be asked to show a valid driver’s license and the vehicle registration.
Vehicles registered in Jalisco should also bear front and back license plates, a current smog verification sticker and proof of insurance coverage. For vehicles with foreign plates, drivers must also present a valid temporary import permit and current immigration document.
The lack of two or more of the requirements is a legitimate motive to order towing and impoundment of the motor vehicle.
Chapala’s traffic department is currently operating with a pickup unit and two ATVs marked with insignia and the words Policia Vial. Semov has three trucks on regular lakeside patrols, distinguished by red and white stripes on the lower part of the body and the ID numbers VR- 09, VR-10 and VR- 12. Other Semov units are occasionally sent out from Guadalajara to carry out spot checks of smog control verifications and registration of Uber cars.