Central American government intervenes to get OOIDA member's truck back

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/1/2002

Christmas arrived a few weeks late for Round Rock, TX, trucker Mark Cervantes, but it was just as merry. Mark finally received the go-ahead from Mexican Customs to retake possession of his truck and its load of shoes, toys and clothing, six months after they were seized at the border.

When he got the word, it appeared months of broken promises and roadblocks were coming to an end. According to Mark, a Belizean government official contacted Mexico's foreign secretary in Mexico City to discuss the situation. Mark is unsure how long the actual negotiations took, but he received the long sought news in mid January. He was told the truck and load would be released in three days. Ecstatic, Mark immediately made preparations to head to the Mexican border across from Pharr, TX.

"It's really amazing to think about it," Mark says of the Belizean government's role in getting his rig. "They just took the ball and ran with it. In the first couple of months after this happened I called my representatives in Texas and they never could get anything done for me. A small country of about 240,000 people was able to do more for me than the U.S. government."

On July 6, 2001, Mark pulled his tractor-trailer across the border. He provided Mexican Customs all the documents needed for an in-transit shipment from the United States to Belize. His paperwork was checked and seals cut. Several cases from the trailer were removed and its contents verified. "I was told that everything was in order and as soon as the new seals were put on the trailer I would be on my way," Cervantes says. Six hours later, Mexican Customs seized his truck.

Over the next few months, Mark contacted various U.S. and Mexican officials in hope of regaining possession of his rig and load. He also made various trips to the border after making little headway with officials over the phone. Unfortunately, the result was the same. Each time, he was told it would be released shortly but no one ever followed through.

When Mark arrived at the border in mid January, he was concerned this would turn out to be yet another empty promise by Mexican Customs. He was overjoyed to finally get the go-ahead to take possession of the truck.

"I thought to myself this is almost too good to be true," Mark laughs. "Then I saw the truck." Mark says the truck had been picked over for salvageable parts and items from the cab. He had to replace everything from the spare tire, tools, the cab's air lines, CB radio and the truck and trailer's side marking lights. "They just took anything of value," he recalls. "But at least they left my fuel."

The only items Mark was able to identify as missing from the load were about eight cases of socks. "There were plenty of toys back there," Mark says. "I'm surprised they didn't break into those when Christmas came around." Finally, after two days of getting the truck into working order, Mark's load was on its way to Belize.

Mark never received a clear explanation of why the truck was detained. He was told a preliminary finding indicated the toys were the reason for holding the truck. But, the only official word Mexican Customs gave after finally releasing the truck and load was that an investigation had been completed and there no longer was any reason to hold them.

Mark continues to stay at the house he owns in Belize and work for his leasor, A & R. He has worked as the company's general manager since the incident, checking loads as they come in from the ship docks. But, Mark says he would enjoy driving again. "I'm going to keep the truck, and if the right opportunity presents itself, sure, I would love to do some driving again."