A commission from the Bolivian government arrived at Tambo Quemado, the main border post with Chile, this Thursday to provide food and medical support to hundreds of porters who have been awaiting Covid-19 tests on the Chilean side for days.
The Bolivian delegation was chaired by Deputy Foreign Trade Minister Benjamín Blanco, who, in addition to coordinating driver assistance, agreed to a meeting with the authorities of Chungará on the Chilean side to speed up the implementation of anticovid tests and support Bolivian doctors.
“We want to know what procedure they use (in taking evidence) on the Chilean side and why the delay,” Blanco told the media.
a long wait
The Bolivian deputy minister mentioned that a hundred trucks gather at the site every day and that there is currently a line of more than 10 kilometers due to the more than 1,500 vehicles awaiting inspection.
This affects the foreign trade of the country, which largely uses this passage to transport its exports and imports, and harms the health of drivers exposed to freezing temperatures in a place where there is no food or basic services said Blanco .
“Sometimes it rains, sometimes the snowfall is constant and we have to put up with that.” “I’ve been in line here for six days,” one van complained to the media, noting that they don’t have access to basic services or shelter .
With this in mind, the Bolivian delegation brought rations of dry food and a couple of ambulances to the site, which are under constant maintenance to provide medical care to transporters suffering from respiratory illnesses.
Blanco claimed that this “should draw the attention of Chilean authorities” and that a “positive response” to Bolivia’s formal proposals for a group of Bolivian doctors to work together to conduct nasal antigen testing is expected to have a common biosecurity protocol and it gives an alternative step.
A “very similar” problem is seen with the Pisiga Pass, which connects Bolivia to the Chilean port of Iquique, where the same had previously been proposed to support Chilean work with Bolivian doctors, he added.
According to the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every day that Bolivian cargo does not circulate causes a loss of about $10 million, to which must be added the cost each carrier owes to shipping companies per day of delay.
After meeting with the Chilean authorities, Blanco reported that they had agreed to allow “pre-registration” of trucks, with the support of Bolivian customs, to reduce the delay in handing them over to the Chilean side.
The Chilean measures also include the 12-hour service at the Tambo Quemado post, so the last Bolivian truck would enter the neighboring country at 20:30 (00:30 GMT), the deputy minister said.
Meanwhile, the suggestion that a team of six Bolivian doctors step up work in Chile and that mobile units could take samples along the way “is on hold,” Blanco said.
“We will see tomorrow (Friday) if we can partially reduce the number of waiting trucks,” he said.
In solving these difficulties, the Bolivian government relied on the right of “free transit” granted by the 1904 treaty that defined the definitive borders between the two countries after the so-called Pacific War.