SANTIAGO – After another night of conflict in the southern regions of Chile, the National Confederation of Chilean Truck Owners issued a statement warning that attacks on vehicles and road barricades were “threatening the continuity of the supply chain, a serious issue in the current health crisis.” The government responded that the supply chain would be protected. In the meantime, transport will continue by convoy with a police escort.
The ongoing conflicts in the southern regions of Chile have affected transportation, as protests and road blockages have become more frequent. Yesterday, Aug. 3, protesters in Collipulli burned a cargo truck, resulting in CLP$26 million (about US$33,600) in damages. The attack was filmed by a police drone and led to the identification and arrest of five people.
Barricades blocking Route 5, Chile’s longest expressway, were also reported last night. This resulted in clashes between police and Mapuche protesters and at least one police officer was injured by a bullet in the Collico sector of Ercilla.
According to Bío Bío, the protesters took cover behind trees as they shot at private cars and at police personnel who arrived at the scene. The wounded officer was taken to the Collipulli Hospital after the attack.
The police ultimately decided to interrupt traffic from the Las Maicas toll station to the town of Pailahueque, placing police vehicles across the highway to impede the flow and prevent further clashes, given the tensions that had been unfolding in the sector.
The protests are responding to acts of racism towards indigenous people and in support of Mapuche spiritual leader Celestino Córdoba who is on a hunger strike in prison, and other Mapuche inmates whom they consider to be political prisoners.
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Truckers Union on Strike
The National Confederation of Chilean Truck Owners issued an urgent request that the government re-establish order and security to guarantee the safety of drivers and cargo. They said that without the government’s help there was no possibility of returning to normal operations and announced a strike.
The confederation’s president, Juan Araya Jofré, said that it is a very serious matter that the supply chain might be compromised amid the ongoing health crisis, and added that “the drivers are not part of the conflict and, therefore, the attacks and destruction of cargo vehicles are inexplicable.”
In response, Interior Ministry Undersecretary Juan Francisco Galli told a press conference today that the supply chain would not be interrupted. “To ensure vehicular flow on Route 5, a convoy escorted by police will be in transit until the situation is determined to be safe,” he said.
Galli also assured that last night the police had taken additional measures to ensure the flow of trucks in Ercilla, where the disruption occurred.
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