Bolivia bans most imports to... curb traffic?
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...
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