The Global Petrol Prices indicates the price of gasoline in Colombia: 9,302 pesos which, translated into dollars, means $ 2.71 a gallon. This is more than the cost of fuel in Ecuador, which returned to the value of $ 1.81; almost $ 1 less compared to Colombia. According to information that the Ministry of Finance sent to Public Media, Ecuador loses $ 212 million a year from smuggling 114,603,120 gallons of fuel.
Figures that corresponded until 2018, prior to the gasoline price update. This practice is maintained in the six border provinces, such as Carchi, Esmeraldas, Sucumbíos, El Oro, Loja and Zamora. The money that the State loses could well be used for social works.
Luis Chica, commander of the Carchi Subzone Police, said there are about 34 connections with Colombia on the border; These are unauthorized steps, which are used not only for the smuggling of fuels but also for committing other crimes, including the transfer of foreigners.
Those who commit the crime of contraband seek various strategies to transfer the fuel. “They have adopted from modified vehicles to the use of acémilas (mules) to transfer liquefied petroleum gas,” said Chica. But the largest flow of contraband is by sea, said Leonardo Alvarado, president of the Gasoline Owners Association in Guayas.
“There have been complaints that at sea they have captured small boats and each one goes with 20,000, 30,000, 50,000 or 100,000 gallons. And let’s not say ships that carry one or two million gallons. ”
In Esmeraldas, the smuggling of fuel is by sea, by boat. This is indicated by a study by the State Attorney General’s Office in 2015 entitled “Maritime borders and illegal markets”.
The distribution is simple. The State delivers quotas to fishermen who in turn give to third parties. They accumulate them in 55 gallon drums “that are stored in dens, houses, even on the banks of the estuaries.” Once they are grouped between 2,000 and 5,000 gallons, they are transported by boat to be mobilized to Majagual, in Colombia.
In Carchi there are about 25 people arrested for the crime of smuggling fuel; So far they are serving a 20 month sentence of deprivation of liberty and only one was sentenced to 5 years. The penalty for illegally storing or transporting hydrocarbons in border areas is 5 to 7 years, according to Maribel Játiva, representative of this group of persons deprived of liberty. The defendants adhered to the abbreviated process, although, he said, they are not criminals. “They are treated as if they were, but the State has not been robbed of an exaggerated amount of money to be sanctioned for 5 to 7 years.
They fall for $ 17, $ 30 or $ 50 of fuel; that’s why we hope they help you with the pardon, ”he said. According to Alvarado, smuggling affects the country’s economy for decades. “In the government of Dr. Gustavo Noboa, he summoned the leadership to Quito to address precisely the issue; at that time there was talk of more than $ 100 million or $ 200 million per year. ”
For his part, Bernardo Creamer, Professor of Economics at the University of Las Américas (UDLA), states that not having sold oil derivatives in the last 29 years at a price in the international market represented great losses for the country. He added that by adjusting the estimated cost of the subsidy to the current value, the loss reaches $ 188,000 million.
“We are talking about quite considerable figures.” While during the second oil boom, as they call the period between 2006 and 2014, due to the rise in oil prices, subsidies reached about $ 80,000 million; of that amount $ 59.5 billion was distributed for extra gasoline, eco-country and diesel.
While in the last period, from 2015 to 2018, the subsidy represented $ 44,000 million. “We stop receiving this additional income; This is equivalent to 42% of GDP, that is, everything the country produces in a year. Half of that (six months) of all production is practically used to pay fuel subsidies, with diesel being the most considerable amount ($ 30,000 million), ”Creamer said.
For the analyst, the problem is that the subsidies benefit other sectors “such as contraband, the transport of foreign products in Ecuador, the transport of tourists entering the country and the objective is that the subsidy remains in the hands of all Ecuadorians, ”he said.
According to Creamer, the value for subsidies can be transferred to the most vulnerable social classes and would accommodate the fiscal deficit. “The Government is now paying subsidies with money it does not have,” he concluded.