Facing a truckers strike that has paralyzed the country’s highways, the Colombian government responded with tough actions against road-blocking truckers and criminal charges against strike organizers.
On Thursday, President Juan Manuel Santos ordered a series of measures intended to pressure the truckers into ending their strike after which the security forces began an offensive to remove trucks from the roads.
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After a month of fruitless strikes, the truckers began blocking the country’s main highways with their vehicles more than a week ago.
As a result, numerous measures directly addressed that threat. For example, Santos announced that the government would seize and impound vehicles used for road blocks.
The governments’ measures also include the suspension of drivers licenses and issuing of fines up to 480 million pesos for the owners of trucks used to block roads; the establishment of a logistical center to coordinate shipments and transportation with businesses not participating in the strike; and the doubling of security forces patrolling the highways to 50,000.
Santos presented these new measures as an effort to restore and protect the rights of Colombian citizens.
“It is clear that the form and demand of this protest goes against the rights of Colombians to food security, free movement, peace, and work,” Santos declared in reference to the strike’s disruption of food supply chains and general transportation throughout much of the country.
“It is my duty as head of state to protect always the general interests and rights of Colombians above the economic interests of few,” he continued.
Santos concluded his announcement by assuring that his government hoped to achieve a peaceful solution with the protesters. However he included some harsh words for the leaders of the strike.
“The position of the people at the [negotiating] table does not seek to defend the interests of the small transporters and does not protect the drivers’ right to decent work,” he claimed.
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His government, he argued, would continue to seek compromises that are “realistic for transporters, particularly the smallest” businesses.
While negotiations did not make any headway over the weekend, Santos’s government had at least followed through with its promise to crackdown on road blockages. As of Monday morning, the newspaper El Tiempo reported that transportation officials had suspended 977 trucking licenses.