MEXICO CITY -- Mexico President Felipe Calderon has ordered his chief of staff to immediately end the practice of accepting so-called free loans of vehicles from auto companies.
The order follows a series of news reports about the ownership of a General Motors Hummer being driven by Mexicos former president, Vicente Fox, on his ranch in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato.
In a TV interview several days ago, Fox said that the vehicle belonged to the office of his chief of staff at Los Pinos, the official residence of all Mexican presidents.
Apparently wishing to avoid political damage from the affair, Calderon has instructed the office of his chief of staff to end immediately all free loan contracts that it has with auto companies, the Los Pinos news media office said in a statement on its Web site late Tuesday, Oct. 16.
In a separate e-mailed statement distributed by General Motors de Mexico, a unit of General Motors, the automaker said:
We confirm that the unit referred to belongs to General Motors de Mexico and was given to the office of the (Mexican) presidencys chief of staff on a free loan on November 12, 2004. The unit was handed over to be used for the security activities of ex-President Vicente Fox Quesada.
Free loans are a common practice within the industry, the statement added, and through the practice units were assigned to the presidential chief of staffs office in support of security matters related to (Mexican) presidents, even before ex-President Vicente Foxs administration.
It is a practice that allows (us) to support security matters and, at the same time, to receive feedback about the performance of our units.
General Motors de Mexico continues to reaffirm its commitment to support the presidential chief of staffs office in its security activities.