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Colombian Truckers Have Stopped Moving, But Their Nationwide Strike Rolls On

Paro de camioneros en Colombia. Foto de Pixabay.

Trucker strike in Colombia. Photo from Pixabay / Public domain

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:

.@COL_EJERCITO [The Colombian Army] escorted a caravan through La Union-El Carmen [a Colombian city]. Trucker Strike pic.twitter.com/SxncDIvdv8

The protesting truckers, meanwhile, complain about police harassment:

#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.

In Bogota at 4:40 pm #ParoCamionero [TruckerStrike], THE STRIKE IS GROWING. @atccomunicacion @JorgeERojasG @ACCnoti pic.twitter.com/vlp8rpgAJG

There have also been reports that some protesters have lashed out at others not involved in the strike.

#LoMásVistoDeLaSemana [TheMostViewedThisWeek] Acts of vandalism during the Trucker Strike pic.twitter.com/mJMjOg7NGQ

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.

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:

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):

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:

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.

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.

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.

Trucker Strike Does Exist pic.twitter.com/XfZ9jIpYWU

@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

[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.

* 1 USD = 2,927.28 Colombian Pesos (exchange rate from July 21, 2016)

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