The employers’ union of the Confederation of Transportistas Fuerza del Norte in Chile -owners of its trucks and even fleets- began an indefinite strike on Monday against the rise in fuel prices and insecurity on the routes. “As highway drivers we don’t have any safe parking to spend the night or sleep, and to that we add the uncontrolled increase in fuels, both oil and gasoline,” said the group’s spokesman, Carlos Galaz.
The organization reported in a statement that the pickets will only allow the passage of emergency vehicles, individuals and passenger transport. Not all truckers’ organizations joined the strike. The National Confederation of Truck Owners of Chile (CNDC) and the Federation of Truck Owners of the Metropolitan Region issued a statement in which they described the strike as “absolutely irresponsible” since “it is the least appropriate moment to initiate forceful actions due to “the serious economic difficulties the country is going through”.
Crime and fuel
The president of the National Cargo Transport Confederation (CNTC), Sergio Pérez, whose organization did not join the protest either, urged the Government of Gabriel Boric to urgently resolve the number one problem in Chile: crime; and the number two, that of fuels”. This organization, although non-partisan, is the most powerful and right-wing: some members are Pinochetistas, others have broken away from the dictator, and Pérez campaigned for Piñera.
Truck drivers are a group with great power of influence since Augusto Pinochet abandoned rail transport. Their mobilizations have a great impact on the economy: there is no other alternative for land transit. This puts into discussion a campaign proposal by President Gabriel Boric in favor of strengthening the national train network, which Sergio Pérez classified as “unfair competition”, adding that “they want to replace truckers from Chile with State Railways”. What they are asking for in return is a fuel subsidy, not for the entire society that suffers the increases in the same way, but for themselves.
The truckers denounce an “uncontrolled and unpunished increase in assaults, robberies and looting of the loads transported with a high risk to the lives of the drivers.” The strike included partial blockades of routes in the north of the country and other unions joined, such as the “Paine” Association of Truck Owners and Drivers in Patagonia.
Several cities in central and northern Chile woke up with trucks paralyzed and cutting routes. In northern Iquique, truckers blocked traffic on a track on Route 16 that connects with the border with Bolivia, while in the Coquimbo region, 400 kilometers north of Santiago, several concentrations were held during the early hours of the morning. In the Metropolitan Region (Santiago) the strike was set at kilometer 41 of Route 5 South with more than 100 trucks stationed on the road, in both directions.”