Chilean authorities dealing with a rise in salmon stick-ups

Published on
February 1, 2019

A growing risk brews in the shadows for Chile’s salmon industry: Bold, broad daylight attacks on trucks moving Chilean salmon.

In a recent incident thieves netted a 22,500-kilogram salmon bounty. Some authorities say this is an isolated trend, while industry associations insist it’s a regular occurrence.

According to a recent report in El Mercurio, in the end of January 2019 five thieves approached a truck parked along Chile’s 5 South freeway near Los Angeles in the BioBio region, tied up the driver and stole the truck along with 22,500 kilograms of salmon valued at CLP 200 million (USD 305,000, EUR 266,000).

BioBio Governor Ignacio Fica called the robbery an isolated incident. But Chile’s salmon industry association, SalmonChile. warns that this has become a regular problem.

“Today the red zone we have is in the VIII Region, between Mulchèn and Los Angeles, because it’s the entrance to Concepcion, and our fish move between Chiloe-Puerto Montt to Coronel,” Matìas Ruiz Tagle, a lawyer that represents SalmonChile members in robbery cases, said.

But there are robberies occuring in other places as well. The “Bermuda Triangle” as it is referred to, is an area between two highways, 68 and 78, that lead to Santiago, where robberies have been an increasing occurrence. The Tarapacà region, in the north of Chile, and Antofagasta’s railroad also are affected.

According to the report, these salmon robberies had been declining over the years, but in 2018, a total of 378 incidents occurred, up from 353 in 2017. But the figure could be higher, since not all victims report the robberies.

The salmon industry is hardly the only industry affected by this problem. In the north, trains carrying copper have also been targeted. While in 2015 there was only one such incident, 2018 saw 46 reports. Nor are all the incidents involving violence, authorities have also seen cases where the trucker drivers are paid off to leave their cargo.

The head of the Interior Ministry’s investigation division, Patricio Gonzàlez, said that both the number of incidents and the number of bands dedicated to these robberies are both on the rise.

“These subjects start to shift when they see a niche. Drug dealers or bank robbers are now focusing on robbing trucks because they see it as a more lucrative business and with less risk of being caught,” Gonzàlez said.

The government is holding committee meetings that including industry associations, police and prosecutors in order to develop new policies. This includes a new protocol to deal with such robberies and giving more priority to incidents involving cargo.  

Reporting from Santiago, Chile

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