Brazilians Worry that Bolivia is About to Legalize Stolen Cars

Bolivian president Evo Morales has approved a law that clears the way for stolen vehicles in the Andean country to be legalized – but the legislation is angering the country's neighbors in Brazil.  

The law, called ley de chutos, was approved last October and could affect more than 100,000 currently illegal cars. This represents about 10 percent of the Bolivian fleet. 

The problem with this law, however, is how deeply it is affecting the country's largest neighbor. Brazil is unable to find 53 percent of the 360,000 cars that are stolen on a yearly basis – and at least one third of these vehicles are likely to be in Paraguay or Bolivia, according to the Federation of Private Insurance Companies. 

Morales said that the new law is “a way for every Bolivian to have a car.”  

The legislation is expected to generate nearly $200 million in revenue, according to the Bolivian government, since owners are supposed to pay $2,000 to legalize each vehicle.

The Brazilian government, though, is not taking too kindly to the legislation, a position that drew criticism from many pundits. A speaker from Brazil's Ministry of Foreign Relations said that the Federal Police asked the Bolivian government not to legalize a list of possibly stolen cars.

At the Brazilian Congress, parliamentarians from the border states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rondônia and Acre have expressed anger against the law, too. 

“The executive should have done something and should not have stayed diplomatically passive. This is not an attack on the Bolivian people, but this law is a meltdown,” said representative Geraldo Reselde from Mato Grosso.

Also from Mato Grosso, Brazil's richest farmer, Senator Blairo Maggi, told Fox News Latino that the worst part of Morales's ley de chutos is not the possibility to legalize stolen cars, but instead that the vehicles are often exchanged for cocaine on Bolivian soil and these drugs are probably going to end up in Brazil. 

“The population from border states is suffering more and more, not just by having their cars stolen but also with the violence. I got the information that the vehicles are exchanged for drugs, so we need to improve security at the borders to make sure the drugs don't return to Brazil,” stated Maggi.

Élder Rosa Magalhães, a deputy of the Federal Police in Cuiabá, revealed to a TV Globo reporter that in general a popular car is exchanged for about two pounds of cocaine in Bolivia.

“A big truck can be sold for up to 44 pounds of the drug,” affirmed Magalhães.

According to Tracker Brasil, a supplier company of technology to track cars in foreign countries, there were 780 requests to search cars in the Andean country or its border since last September – compared to 68 calls at the previous quarter. 

“Just this week we found nine cars in Bolivia that were stolen in São Paulo (city),” said Marcelo Orsiam, marketing director at Tracker.

Authorities from the state of Mato Grosso confirmed the rise of crime in most cities after the sanction of the law, specifically in Corumbá at the border. 

“All the population of Mato Grosso is being hurt. We have to improve our security policies to restrain the crimes resulting from the Bolivian law,” admitted Agilson Azizes, a major from the military police of the state.

Insurance companies are studying the increase of 30 percent in car insurance in Mato Grosso. In the rest of Brazil, the increase is small, though still no smaller than 10 percent. 

So far, over 10,000 vehicles were legalized in Bolivia with the new law.

Luís Henrique Vieira is a freelance writer based in Brazil.

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