The mafias of smugglers of stolen cars in Chile surpass the Bolivian State | International

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Dozens of trucks wait to cross the border between Chile and Bolivia, in the Colchane commune.Anadolu Agency (via Getty Images)

The case of the Chilean truck driver Mario Bello once again showed that the mafias of illegal and stolen car smugglers have exceeded the capacities of the Bolivian State. Bello was shot on July 8 near the town of Challapata, capital of Abaroa province, considered a “red zone” in which these smugglers operate, while looking for the truck that had been stolen from him in Chile and that he knew was nearby. His story moved his compatriots, who followed it through the media.

In Bolivia, the situation was not surprising: cars stolen in Chile and freely traded on the Bolivian market have repeatedly embarrassed the country. After the ordeal of Bello, who received a bullet in the back and probably can no longer walk, the Chilean consul general in Bolivia, Fernando Velasco, announced that there will be a high-level bilateral meeting to discuss the problem.

A large yellow and blue tractor-trailer was the only asset the trucker had to support his family and pay off his debts. On June 26, it was stolen in the Chilean city of Calama. He knew, because that is what usually happens, that the thieves would sell it to Bolivian smugglers of undocumented cars or, as they are called in Bolivia, “chutos” cars. Given its landlocked nature, Bolivia imports most of the merchandise it buys through Chile. Along with legal trade, smuggling operates, which is very diverse.

One of the most coveted items are cars, which enter Bolivia through the more than 70 clandestine crossings that exist on the border between the two countries. Before, it was only about “chutos” cars; For some years now, stolen vehicles have increased, raising the level of danger of groups of informal traders.

More than a year ago, Chile's Meganoticias television network followed a Chilean group of stolen-vehicle rescuers to Bolivia, proving the links of high-ranking members of the Bolivian police to the stolen-car trade. One of these cars, which could be located by the GPS system, appeared in the hands of a police chief.

Despite all the risks, when he found out that his truck had passed into Bolivia on July 1, Mario Bello, accompanied by his two daughters and his son-in-law Luis Alfredo Anza, crossed the border in search of him. According to what one of his daughters later recounted, they asked for the help of the Bolivian police in the cities of Oruro and Uyuni, without obtaining it. Then, some individuals posing as police officers, one of whom has already been arrested, contacted them and gave them the location of the truck. Bello, Anza and one of these "guides" went to the place, where the smugglers received them with bullets. They managed to escape, but the trucker was badly injured. For a time it was believed that the son-in-law was kidnapped, something that can happen to those who enter the "red zones", but the Bolivian police found him while he was trying to cross the border to return to his house.

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The Government mobilized 250 policemen to arrest the perpetrators of the shots, who, however, remain at large to this day. It is presumed that they are two smugglers, very rich and with a history, from the Abaroa province.

The smuggling and trade of “chutos” cars has been an important route of social ascent in the last decades. The ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) has been accused of not sanctioning this practice, which has allowed peasants, who in the last century used bicycles and depended on intermediaries to transport their products, to equip themselves with their own trucks and cars. ; Yes, without papers. Months ago, the alternate deputy of the MAS José Rengel Terrazas was accused by the prosecution of making transfers for 51 million dollars to four countries and caused astonishment when he justified this patrimony by informing that he was engaged in the purchase and sale of "shock" and " transformers” (second-hand cars that are changed to adapt them to Bolivian needs).

Along with the undocumented vehicles, the stolen ones sneak in, which are sold, as if they were just “shots”, in informal fairs throughout the country. And they are also confiscated by Customs along with the others. This institution suffered heat when, months ago, it was discovered that among the cars expropriated by the State from smugglers, which President Luis Arce had given to some union institutions, were units stolen in Chile.

According to the police, control would improve if Chile put online information about the vehicles wanted in that country faster. “A call to both countries so that what happened to my father does not happen to anyone else. Let it be a call for us to act like brothers”, declared Carla, the daughter of Mario Bello, in the act in which the Bolivian police handed over the truck, which was recovered. She said that her father was happy to have him back: "We did it, mommy," she had told him on the phone. And she thanked the police officers who did help her. “There are also good police officers,” she declared through tears.

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