The truck-driver and cargo-transporter unions in Colombia have been on strike since the first week of June 2016, delivering a significant blow to the national economy. Conservative estimates say the work stoppage has cost Colombia roughly 1.3 billion Colombian pesos (approximately 444 million US dollars*). All this follows a similar strike by truckers just five years ago, in 2011.
The strike is the result of several unresolved issues. Unions are demanding that the government take the following steps:
- Solve the excess numbers of truckers
- Review the decline in cargo demand
- Update the industry's costs
- Stabilize the bidding war
Although there have already been negotiations between industry executives and government representatives, they've yet to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Meanwhile, cities like Medellin are experiencing shortages of basic products. Negotiations have broken down repeatedly. On July 13, officials and union representatives began their latest effort to resume talks.
Colombia's army has been ordered to guard the transport companies that aren’t on strike:
— MiOriente (@MiOriente) July 2, 2016
The protesting truckers, meanwhile, complain about police harassment:
— Alirio Uribe Muñoz (@AlirioUribeMuoz) July 2, 2016
#ParoCamionero ESMAD [the Colombian National Police] is attacking them in various regions. If the persecution doesn’t stop, they won’t be open to a discussion @MinTransporteCo pic.twitter.com/vR1H0rKgfa
Roadblocks throughout the country has been a source of friction, leading to a convergence of traffic and protests.
— CCT Colombia (@CCTPresidente) July 11, 2016
There have also been reports that some protesters have lashed out at others not involved in the strike.
— TWlTTEROS CALI (@TwiterosCali) July 3, 2016
As the situation's complexity grows, drivers have also been forced to discard much of their perishable cargo, facing the impossibility of completing their deliveries.
— CarmenHerrera (@herrerak11) July 11, 2016
In La Ceja, they are throwing out food that they can’t ship due to the strike. Images that hurt pic.twitter.com/w62Iqx2KPR
In the midst of the predicament, Twitter user Juan David Escobar reflected on the little responsibility that seems to fall on government officials:
En un país serio, y sin Unidad Nacional, un #ParoCamionero de 35 días, tumba ministros. Pero aquí todos enmermelados se quedan callados.
— Juan David Escobar (@ElReticente) July 12, 2016
In an opposing country without national unity, a 35-day #ParoCamionero [TruckerStrike] is demolishing politicians. But here all of the corrupt government officials remain silent.
To generate publicity for the campaign, Twitter users have been using the hashtag #ParoCamioneroSiExiste (TruckerStrikeDoesExist):
— Ing. César Pachón A. (@CesarPachonAgro) July 7, 2016
Today at 8:30 p.m., HT Trucker Strike Does Exist pic.twitter.com/BsLFpLvkqz
Netizens also took the opportunity to express their opinions on the matter:
#paroCamionerosiexiste los camioneros se suman a un año de paro y confrontación al modelo y sus políticas represivas.viva el paro camionero
— Jimmy Moreno (@Jminguero) July 7, 2016
Trucker Strike Does Exist. The truckers join in on a year of striking and confrontation with the system and its repressive politics. Long live the trucker strike.
No vendieron empresas nacionales para inversión en infraestructura vial? Porqué aumentar peajes e impuestos entonces? #ParoCamioneroSiExiste
— Just Breathe :) (@Angiesmile92) July 7, 2016
Didn’t they sell national businesses to invest in road infrastructure? Why raise the tolls and taxes then? Trucker Strike Does Exist
Many are beginning to fear, however, that the protest movement is at risk of being hijacked by outsiders.
El #ParoCamioneroSiExiste este paro no es de Uribe ni del Centro Democrático, estos han intentado hacerlo de ellos, robar protagonismo.
— Juan Camilo Caicedo (@JUANCAELBROKY) July 7, 2016
The Trucker Strike Does Exist isn’t from [Senator Alvaro] Uribe nor the Democratic Center, they’ve tried to make it theirs and steal the show.
— Lika (@Lika51223103) July 7, 2016
Trucker Strike Does Exist pic.twitter.com/XfZ9jIpYWU
— Jose Fdo Sanin M (@JoseFdoSanin) July 9, 2016
@JuanManSantos Since your priority is the Revolutionary Armed Forces Of Colombia Narco-Terrorism South American Peace. HERE'S A MESSAGE TO YOU… Trucker Strike Does Exist. Us, The Good Ones Are More. pic.twitter.com/U3Y2VYwHla
— Jose Iglesias B. (@joseiglesiasb) July 12, 2016
[In the image: “I'd swap a Ford Mod 60 for a gun so that Mr. FARC Santos [Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos] will give me better guarantees.”]
That language at the Trucker Strike implies that an ex-president, today a senator, already has his hands dirty in the corruption. pic.twitter.com/q0ecEvNYef
Due to the lack of an agreement and the likelihood that the protest will radicalize, the government has ordered the militarization of all roadways. Today, the situation remains tense, with a companion strike in the mining industry brewing that will only aggravate the current tensions.