Current Bolivian piracy 101: a way of life that reproduces…

Are we resembling Somalia? Can we improve our living conditions or at least revert this??! El Deber reports:

Piracy, a way of life which are reproduced

Smuggling. There are 1,500 uniformed in Challapata. They seized 70 vehicles

‘Parrots’ are spies who warn the smugglers when troops of the Operating Customs Control (COA) are approaching. If that doesn’t work, the smugglers, who often travel in caravans of up to ten vehicles with two and even three people each, used guns to scare away the ‘coas’ (agents) that go on patrols of up to 10 people. But if confiscation of the merchandise still occurs, women and children as cannon fodder, lead mobs seeking to rescue the merchandise or the seized cars.

With the COA intelligence sources and testimonies of inhabitants of Challapata, El Deber rebuilt the way in which entire groups of people operate in smuggling activity in the Bolivian altiplano [highlands’ plateau].

Until some years ago, villagers only charged a kind of ‘toll’ to the smugglers to let them pass, but eventually saw that it was more profitable to enter the business.

So, many became smugglers, drivers, forgers of documents and car plates, owners of garages, mechanical transformers and others.

The Oruro District Prosecutor, Gonzalo Martínez, explains that this activity is changing the values of the society. He said that if the son of a teacher and the son of a ‘chutero’ [smuggled car person] are friends, with certainty, the first will want to become a smuggler.

Drivers driving undocumented vehicles are usually young and even children who are preferred among the chuteros (car smugglers), because they have the ability to get the vehicle to its destination through alternate paths. Depending on the section, they may charge up to $300 for travel. On the other hand, in a whole month, a teacher may earn Bs1,500 [Bs7 to a dollar].

When the caravans of illegal cars are intercepted by the ‘coas’ [COA personnel], or when there is a malfunction in the vehicle, drivers must throw the key into the desert and abandon the motor because the COA will not have chances to take that car.

Once vehicles reach Challapata, they are transformed [change the steering wheel to the left side], and there, the owner will find all forged, from the plate to the rosette of inspection, for the vehicle to continue journey to cities or towns in the interior of the country, smoothly.

A source of intelligence for the COA dares to say that 80% of the inhabitants of Challapata is involved directly or indirectly with the smuggling of cars.

Challapata and Sabaya were towns without law where the police and military were not allowed to enter. At some points there even take the ‘luxury’ of putting signs that say: “Banned the entry of the COA”.

Customs sources said that, against that, there is no choice but to keep out, because “you can enter, but in five minutes are surrounded and you can not leave”.

Another Center similar to the Challapata is the ayllu Qaqachaca in Potosi. Panfilo Condori, leader of Qaqachaca, believes that “it is misleading” to indicate that his people are involved in that activity. However, he recognizes that “smuggling must always go through the village and there are people who have worked on that”. Acknowledges that before the qaqachacas had no vehicles, but that they do now have one or two. In his case, he recognizes that his car is undocumented. [people probably get paid ‘in kind’ for their ‘services’]

Deputies call for work/labor for the people

The members [of the lower chamber of the Assembly/Congress] Ever Moya (MAS) and Franz Choque (Convergence) are representatives of Oruro; they claim that whole populations are not involved, but some people are involved with illegal activity.

Moya, who represents the Oruro fair traders [informal commerce mostly dealing with smuggled merchandise], ensures that there are legal economic activities in Challapata and that not all have to do with the business of the ‘chutos’. Despite being member of the official party in power, said to be in disagreement with the operation developed in Challapata, which resulted in two deaths. They have entered “as in times of war, I do not agree with this”, he said, and then announced that he requested a report from the Minister of Defense, Rubén Saavedra.

The clash Member recognizes that in the area “there is no presence of the State”, but there must be implement a policy of “alternative development to the Highlands”, with the aim to legalize the activity of the people in these populations. His proposal is to establish a ‘free-zone’ in Challapata to allow its inhabitants to become legal in the business of used cars. The Oruro District Prosecutor, Gonzalo Martínez, said that in Challapata, before the military intervention on Tuesday, there was exchange of vehicles by drug.

Anarchy, violence, smuggling, drugs, society changing its values… sounds familiar? Certainly was what happened in extinct Somalia… so much for the political slogan of “Bolivia changes…”

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