• Dec 22, 2008
Outside of a Terry Gilliam film, where else can you see a used car blessing ceremony, a city of one million people with 535 different public bus routes, roadblocks set up by car mechanics, and kids dressed in zebra suits patrolling crosswalks? Bolivia, that's where. The South American nation, attempting to halt an explosion of automobile buying that's clogging their limited road network, has banned importing used cars more than five years old.
The president of Bolivia issued the ban to halt the tide of right-hand-drive cars coming in from Japan. The cars are more reliable than what was on offer before, and so cheap that Bolivians have been buying them up, painting "Taxi" on the sides, only to sit on traffic-choked roads. Shutting down the import trade brings Bolivia more in line with its South American neighbors, and it could open the roads up a bit as well and curb air pollution issues. The mechanics who convert right-hand drive cars to left-hand drive have protested and blocked roads, arm-in-arm with the used car dealers who sell them.

Bolivians who wanted the used cars are losing out twice: Used cars less than five years old usually don't make it to Bolivia, and they will be denied "the road trip to bless a new used car at a popular Catholic shrine on Lake Titicaca -- where proud owners splash their new wheels with beer and tape flowers to the side mirrors -- has become a regular rite of passage." Oh, and the kids dressed up as zebras? They get paid by the city to to scold drivers that block crosswalks. It's probably not a bad gig unless you get run over on your first day and spend three days in hospital like one zebra in La Paz. Ah, Bolivia...

[Source: CBS]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 4 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      My wife is from Bolivia. I have had firsthand experience with these taxis and driving there. I have never been in a taxi down there where the right-hand steering wheel wasn't ripped out and relocated to the left-hand side. They're all like that. And, I can attest to the traffic. An in-law from Brazil, who had been around the continent quite a bit, remarked on the traffic in Santa Cruz as being the worst in all of South America. I was very scared the first time I took my mother-in-law's car out into the city. The traffic is heavy, and the lines on the road mean nothing. If four cars can fit, four cars will squeeze in. The traffic circles are another nightmare, where everyone is inches from everyone else, with people walking/running in between the cars while traffic is moving. It's crazy. But, the craziest of all is in the barrios off the main roads between the "anillos" (rings). In the barrios, four-way intersections do not involve stopping. They involve honking the horn as you're coming up to the intersection, to let the other drivers know you're coming through with little to no intention of slowing down or stopping. It can be a very stressful experience. After doing it for a while, even Atlanta driving seems extremely safe and civilized (I can assure you, Atlanta driving is NOT civilized).
      • 6 Years Ago
      The limit in the age of used cars that can be imported is understandable. Im from Mexico and our government applied the same ban as many used cars were imported from the USA and were in our roads, the thing was that they were all trash on wheels and they were a real danger on our roads. Fortunatelly this changed and now there are not many of them in the cities, most are in the country roads and fields. But what I dont understand is why if the cars didnt comply any more with USA rules could be imported as cars and not as junk.

      And some politicians get angry when Mexico is considered the USA´s backard. The same thing is happening with Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador with all the junk cars from Japan.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Actually, I was just in Tbilisi, the capital of the Republic of Georgia, imagine a country full of Soviet era roads, never meant to hold more than 2 rows of traffic at any given time, now absolutely bursting at the seams with more cars than they were ever designed to hold, I've got some horror stories to tell, especially with taxi drivers and their total disregard for the human lives they are transporting....
      • 6 Years Ago
      I bet some of them are wishing Boris Johnson was their president.