Dozens? hundreds? NO!! Thousands of rejected vehicles in their countries of origin are entering Bolivia through Iquique, Chile. Those used vehicles that per regulations in their countries, are forced to be disposed of as they are considered pollutant, end up in this country where unfortunately anarchy rules. This is not the first time but it is by far the largest attempt to legalize those type of vehicles. It is not a secret that this time, the smugglers are different, indigenous communities are fully engaged in this business, as large quantities of money is required to purchase this large number of vehicles and also bribe their way into the country.
Over the weekend, Chile and Brazil TV, showed the smuggling characteristics, the way narcotrafficking laundering is taking place and how corruption allows this smuggling. I remember a colleague in the 90’s, he purchased five of those “transformers” (named as such because they come with the driving wheel on the right and per Bolivian regulations, wheel is on the left side) for the purpose of employing them as taxi cabs in La Paz. Those cars were a constant headache for my friend, brakes, suspension issues, let alone how informal his drivers were… the worst thing happened when in use, one of the cars “lost” his driving wheel, as it was placed in the usual artisanal way, unsafe… with passengers inside, the car went on his own path and the driver with the wheel in his hand… sad but true.
President just said that people deserve the right to have their own car, he may be right. However, cars should be tools that do not pollute; those smuggled cars are discarded as they were heavily used in their countries of origin (Far East mainly). Even cars who were reported to be unsafe as a result of the radiation exposure recently in Japan, are entering the country. By making those imports legal, they do not only contribute with heavy road traffic, will demand increased amounts of gas/diesel and not so long ago, this government tried to raise the prices and when there was blockades and riots, changing back to the old-subsidized prices who generate losses of millions of dollars to the State.
Aside of those damages to the environment, to which this government portraits as an advocate, by legalizing these vehicles we send wrong signals to the rest of the smugglers, i.e. used clothes that practically “kill” or textile industry. All smugglers and informal economy practitioners will now began to ask for breaks.
On top of that, a strike this coming Monday by the National association of public transport is in the works, as they protest for this “legalization,” they fear those incoming vehicles will engage in public transport and will be more competition to those existing. Although it was advertised as a national strike, the Santa Cruz transport union just said they will not go on strike… everyone has their own demands, their own priorities. From the government to the unions… anarchy flourishes where there are no sound public policies.