SANTIAGO (AP) — Hundreds of small and medium-sized truckers in northern Chile have paralyzed their activities to demand greater highway safety and lower fuel prices.
Chilean carriers transport daily more than 95% of the loads -such as food, fuel, construction materials and machinery, and international cargo, among other inputs- along the Pan-American route or Route 5, whose extension of more than 3,300 kilometers long connects the country from north to south.
Most of the drivers who joined the strike parked their machines on the side of the highway, in the vicinity of Copiapó, 800 kilometers north of the Chilean capital, while a few dozen did so in the vicinity of Santiago. During the first hours of the movement they are allowing minor and emergency vehicles to pass.
While the strike was taking place, the Minister of Finance, Mario Marcel, was meeting at the government palace with the president of the truck owners, Juan Araya. In Chile there are about 40,000 cargo carriers, of which about 30,000 are small and medium-sized.
For the government of President Gabriel Boric, the stoppage “is not responsible” because there are open channels of dialogue and it only generates problems for the population, according to the Undersecretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve.
The Union Association of Transporters Fuerza Norte, which called for the strike, questioned in a statement the “uncontrolled” increase in assaults, robberies and looting of the cargo they transport and demanded a reduction in the price of diesel, whose value in Chile is around 1, 7 dollars a liter.
The drivers stated that “truck theft, both in cities and on the highway, makes the activity unsustainable and leaves medium and small operators immediately bankrupt.”
Chile imports more than 90% of the fuel it needs, the price of which suffered sharp increases after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The State subsidizes the prices of fuels within the country, although the prices go up several cents every week.
Gabriel Rojas, a leader of truckers from the north, told the press that in addition to crime and high fuel prices, they lack resting places along the highway. “I can’t have a driver working 10, 12 hours without a break”
After meeting with the Minister of Haciendo Araya, he anticipated that the government will deliver a document in the afternoon in which it will assure them that the state fuel subsidy will remain in force during 2023 and that the weekly price increase will be applied every two weeks.
Insecurity and a wave of inflation are the main problems facing President Boric, who in May suffered a strike by truckers from the south who were protesting the insecurity of the roads, which have been guarded by the military for six months.