From east to west, and sea to sea
Two new sections are inaugurated for the Bioceanic Corridor, a route that will cross Bolivia from West to East and connect the country to Pacific and Atlantic ports
written by: Marcus Neves
photos by: Roberto Rosa
In their speeches, Presidents Lula and Morales stressed the increasing integration of Brazil and Bolivia, and the importance of that route to Bolivian development. In addition to reducing cargo transport costs, the new roadway will significantly increase the competitiveness of Bolivian exporters, who will have a route to the Pacific and free access to the Atlantic.
After the speeches, a traditional Bolivian ritual called challa was carried out in which both presidents threw on the ground a tinara cerámica (clay jar) containing chicha, a fermented beverage made from cassava, to request good energy for the roadway.
The opening ceremony and that final gesture by both presidents represented the fulfillment of a long-held dream for the residents of Germán Busch Province in the eastern Bolivian Department of Santa Cruz. The roadway links the capital of that department (Santa Cruz de la Sierra) with the Brazilian border. The two sections officially opened are numbers 4 and 5, the second of which was built by a joint venture of Odebrecht and Iasa, a Bolivian contracting firm.
Section 4 is 139.2 km long and connects the towns of Roboré and El Carmen; section 5 is 102 km long, linking El Carmen and Arroyo Concepción, on the Brazilian border. The client is Administradora Boliviana de Carreteras – ABC, the Bolivian highway authority, and the project was fully financed by the Andean Development Corporation (CAF).
“Roads are tools that foster economic development and make social progress and quality of life possible by enabling the communities along their routes to access health care services and education,” observes Patrícia Ballivian, President of the ABC.
A dream come true
Willamz Colombo Beltrán manages Empresa de Transporte Puerto Suárez. His company has a fleet of 28 trucks, and is responsible for transporting imported goods from the Puerto Aguirre Free Trade Zone in Puerto Quijarro to numerous destinations in Bolivia. It also transports local products that are exported to Brazil from their points of origin to the border. According to Colombo, this roadway is a dream come true. “Ten years ago, when our company got started, driving from the border to El Carmen, which now takes just 50 minutes, could take up to two weeks in the rainy season.” He believes that this new route will give trade relations between the two countries a tremendous boost. “It means that job and income opportunities will be created, which will heat up the economy.”
Romualdo Hurtado is the Mayor of Puerto Suárez. The provincial capital of Germán Busch, his city is located on the route of the Biooceanic Corridor. He, too, believes that this roadway will stimulate regional growth. “A route like this is a factor that will induce growth and generate more well-being and a better life for everyone,” he says. Puerto Suárez’s economy is based on commerce, farming, ranching and mining.
Expectations that the new route will be a source of regional development are shared by Beatriz Conde Bello, a Cuban pediatrician who works at the San Juan de Dios Municipal Diagnostic Center in Puerto Suárez. She is a member of a medical team that has been working on a cooperative health program for 10 months as a result of an agreement between the Bolivian and Cuban governments, through which Cuban health professionals are tending to low-income communities in Bolivia. “The presence of a route like the Bioceanic Corridor is an ideal starting point for the development of high-quality health services, because it makes it possible to transport patients in emergencies,” she observes.
Energizing the economy
Since ground was broken on section 5 of the Bioceanic Corridor, this project has created fresh prospects for the communities that lie along its route. To start with, the Odebrecht-Iasa joint venture prioritized local hiring, which reduced unemployment while improving residents’ incomes.
The local hires include 13 recent college graduates who joined the company in 2007. “They were part of a program to groom and educate new Odebrecht members, which focuses on education through work and is based on the core principles of the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO),” says Júlio Lopes. When section 5 was completed, the young partners that had been groomed in Bolivia went on to work on other Odebrecht projects in South America, as well as Libya, in northern Africa. Furthermore, the arrival of the work fronts building the roadway helped energize the economy, because the joint-venture contractor also emphasized local purchases of products used to feed their workers.
“Even now, after the work has been completed, there is a visible economic flux due to the demand for other services needed by the vehicles and people that travel along this route every day. This means there will be an upward trend in local residents’ incomes,” says Odebrecht Project Director Júlio Lopes Ramos, the Managing Director of the joint-venture contractor. “We have also seen new centers of development emerge in Germán Busch Province. This roadway has brought development to the region, which gives us the sense of having done our duty.” Marcelo Odebrecht, President and CEO of Odebrecht S.A., who was present at the opening ceremony for the highway at Arroyo Concepción, concurs: “The importance of Odebrecht’s work is reflected by its contribution to improving people’s quality of life and development in this region.”
Work on stretch 5 of the Bioceanic Corridor began in January 2006. The Odebrecht-Iasa joint venture delivered it on schedule by working two shifts per day for 30 months, providing work opportunities to 1,200 people, 95% of whom are residents of the Department of Santa Cruz.