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Fri Jan 25, 2013, 06:24 AM

Colombia cracks down on smuggling of cheap gas from Venezuela

Rio Hacha, Colombia

Colombia cracks down on smuggling of cheap gas from Venezuela

Published on Thursday January 24, 2013

Hunter Jack
Special to the Star

RIO HACHA, COLOMBIA—The Colombian police officer levelled his pistol and fired without warning at the tires of the oncoming truck, laden with 10,000 litres of contraband fuel from Venezuela. “The inner tire, the inner tire!” yelled the driver at his two companions, pulling over when the coast was clear.

Unscathed — this time — the smugglers continued on their dangerous journey to deliver the illegal gasoline to the thousands of small-scale streetside gasoline stands that line the main thoroughfares of every municipality throughout Colombia’s northeast border region.

Pimpineros, named after the 20-litre plastic pimpine containers in which they store their gasoline, are the streetside sellers of black market gasoline. At their makeshift stalls, homemade filtration systems sit next to neat rows of old glass bottles filled with fuel, the fading emblems of local rum and soda brands glistening in the sun.

Together, the streetside sellers and the smugglers who supply them provide Colombian drivers with more than 35 million litres of contraband fuel per month, according to local officials.


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