SANTIAGO — The national truckers union started striking on Aug. 27. For almost a week now, they have been blocking main routes and slowing down the supply chain. On their sixth day, the government threatened to file a complaint, and a mechanic participating in the truckers’ strike died after being run over by a truck.
For almost a week, the national truckers union (CNTC) has been striking and demanding that the government ensures the safety of drivers after arson attacks in the past few months.
Several incidents have been reported during the walkout. On Sept. 1, a mechanic supporting the protests died after being run over by a truck. The accident was registered near Curicó and, according to reports, in a terrible irony, the truck that hit the man was transporting medicine.
The strike was also punctuated by lighter moments on Sept. 1. A video of truckers breaking curfew and violating social distancing to dance with strippers went viral. The government was not amused: “Once we know the exact place where this occurred, we will file a complaint based on Article 318, as we have done every time the population’s health has been put at risk by people that don’t comply with the measures of the health authorities,” Interior Undersecretary Juan Francisco Galli told T13.
Increasing Concerns About Supply Chain
As land freight is the most commonly-used means of transportation in the country, fears of disruption in the supply chain have been a concern since the beginning of the strike. On the first day of the walkout, Interior Minister Víctor Pérez assured the public that the supply chain would not be interrupted, as the CNTC had promised not to interfere with it.
However, on Aug. 31, Minister of Agriculture Antonio Walker told 24 Horas that the truckers’ strike was starting to compromise the supply of food from the La Araucanía region. Minister Pérez responded in a press conference and said that “as we are starting to see signs of shortage, what we will have to do is use each and every instrument of the law … and the State Security Law is among those mechanisms.”
After one week, the consequences of nationwide truckers' strike become visible. This is a supermarket in Concepción, where its impossible to buy meat, fruits and vegetables amid a severe health crisis. Talks between the govt and the #camioneros continue, so far without result. pic.twitter.com/TfMiQo0qnT
— Boris van der Spek (@BorisvanderSpek) September 2, 2020
Decreasing Public Support For Truckers’ Strike
Truckers decided to carry out a national strike after a series of incidents were registered, mainly in the southern regions of the country. The CNTC claims the government has not taken any concrete measures to stop terrorist attacks on drivers and cargo.
After a truck driver died from an arson attack and a driver’s nine-year-old daughter was shot, many Chileans empathized with the truckers’ cause. A week into the strike, however, many are now criticizing the government’s response and support for the protesters has decreased. Opposition sectors point to the fact that the State Security Law has not been invoked when it was so readily used during the social outburst last year.
Communist party Representative Carmen Hertz alleged complicity between the government and the truckers. In a tweet, she called out police officers for “participating in the scandal” and the Ministry of Interior for endorsing it.
Gabriel Boric, a representative from the Social Convergence party, also criticized the government’s response to the strike. “They justify truckers who threaten to cut the supply chain and treat them with rose petals, while people who fight for their dignity are shot in the eyes,” he wrote, referring to the government’s response during last year’s protests.
Truckers are even losing support from pro-government corners. National Renovation party Representative Andrés Celis asked Minister of Health Enrique Paris and Minister Pérez to explain the measures they have taken to prevent the serious consequences to public health that the truckers’ strike could bring. He also asked Pérez to invoke the State Security Law to stop it.
Fernanda Gándara is currently finishing her journalism degree at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. She’s passionate about writing, environmental issues and women empowerment. You can find her on Twitter as @FerGMarchant