Monday, October 10, 2005

Gas shortage and smuggling

These last weeks there has been a shortage of liquid gas in La Paz. It seems that there are other affected regions such as Potosi. MABB reports on the situation with pictures.

Liquid gas is usually sold in metal containers whose English name I ignore. In Spanish we call them "garrafas". The shortage of gas in La Paz reminds me of some articles I read months ago.

This town is about one or two hours (I don't remember) away from La Paz. It is split in half by river Desaguadero, which is also the border between Bolivia and Peru. If you want to go to Peru you should go to migrations office fill a boring form, get a stamp and cross to Peru. As you cross the bridge you are surprised by the number of people going back and forth pulling and pushing wagons full of goods. This is called "contrabando hormiga" or ant smuggling. I don't know the laws precisely so I might say something incorrect. I think that if you transport merchandises in a relatively small quantity you need not pay taxes. The small quantity in transportation is the reason that the word "hormiga" is used :).

I believe that this year one of the newspapers La Razón or La Prensa made a thorough investigation of gas smuggling in the border town of Desaguadero. I will try to find it.

Given that gas is more expensive in Peru than in Bolivia, there were massive sales of gas "garrafas" to the Peruvian part of Desaguadero. Take a look at this article from La Prensa.

After these reports the government acted quickly. They stopped the excessive influx of garrafas to this region. They calculated how much the Bolivian population in Desaguadero would need to only ship the needed quantity. I translate the last paragraph from here.
Up to July, the demand for liquid gas in Desaguadero reached 11 thousand "garradas" per month, but the Superintendencia (a body regulating hidrocarbons trade and production) restricted the delivery to the [regional] distributors to only 3800 "garrafas" per month.
Now it seems that smugglers go as far as La Paz to buy "garrafas" and sell them to Peru. And the consequences, you see them now: shortage of gas in La Paz. I wonder if there is a another solution other than increasing the prices for gas. According to the article from La Prensa, a garrafa in Bolivia is worth 68 bolivianos while in Peru it is 80 bolivianos. Increasing the prices proved unfeasible because of protests. Of course shortage of gas provokes protests as well. Working in the government seems to be a very hard job indeed. I am happy to just be a humble computer scientist :).

A related article and another. The latter mentions that the garrafas make it as far in Peru as Arequipa!


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