Truckers say the Piñera administration asked them to strike amid pandemic

SANTIAGO – Tensions rise once again between truckers and the outgoing administration of Sebastián Piñera. Truckers claim that in 2020 the administration asked them to strike as pressure to pass the Juan Barrios Law. The claim came to light after a meeting between President-elect Gabriel Boric and small and medium-sized businesses.

This week, the president of the National Confederation of Truck Owners (CNDC), Juan Araya, met with President-elect Gabriel Boric and asserted that the Piñera administration asked truckers to strike in 2020 to put pressure on Congress to pass the Juan Barrios law. Also present at the meeting were leaders and representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises that have now been dubbed as being a part of “La Moneda chica.”

“We want truckers who are in an area to have certain privileges or certain guarantees so that the resources that are won remain in the area,” exclaimed the president of the CNDC. Over the years, truckers have been the victims of shootings, robberies, and arson attacks while delivering goods across Chile.

In reference to the 2020 strikes sparked by the death of Juan Barrios, who was a victim of an arson attack on his truck, Araya said “we were not there. We did not adhere … to that strike,” further adding that the strike was called by the government itself.

The second half of 2021 also saw truckers go on strike which later resulted in states of emergency being imposed on the nation’s southern regions. Truckers had called for the government to provide them with better protection and caused major disruptions with a number of blockades on busy interstates, such as Route 160 and Route 5 South.

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Truck Drivers Strike Due to Unrest in Araucanía Region

In October 2021, Piñera announced the states of emergency in the La Arauncanía and Arauco regions. The special measures were intended to last 15 days but have since been extended several times during which the then Juan Barrios bill became law.

The new law means that those convicted of arson attacks could face a minimum of 10 years to life in prison. The law changes the country’s Penal Code such that it now also applies to all arson-related cases regardless of whether there has been any loss of life.

While the Piñera administration saw several truckers’ protests, his has not been the only administration to have had a tense relationship with the CNDC. Former president Michelle Bachelet’s administration also had to deal with CNDC actions, including a convoy of trucks arriving at La Moneda to demand change.

CNDC’s future one-on-one with the soon-to-be president?

It is expected that the confederation will have a one-on-one meeting with Boric’s administration. Araya told Biobío radio that he emphasized the importance of having such a meeting. “We [CNDC] told the president that truckers move 94 percent of the cargo, therefore it is fundamental.”

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