Colombia’s Truckers Strike – US Issues Travel Advisory

nsnbc : Colombia’s truckers declared a strike for the 13th time in 15 years. Truckers complain among others about foreign companies that have flooded the Colombian market. Following the government’s unwillingness to negotiate and police violence, the trucker’s union vowed to block the roads around Bogota. The US issued a travel advisory.

Colombia_trucker strike_jul 2016_BogotaThe patience of Colombia’s truckers with the government has been worn out like an old set of tyres. 13 strikes in 15 years didn’t persuade the Colombian government to change the policy that allowed transnational transport companies to flood Colombia’s roads with trucks.

Transnational corporations have undercut prices to such a degree that thousands of local truckers lost their ability to provide for themselves and their families while Colombian companies have to close shop or surrender to being bought up by transnational corporations.

Truckers stress that the policy is not unlike the policy in Colombian cities where small bus companies have been forced to close shop after public-private joint ventures, often dominated by transnationals and local elites have taken over. Truckers also accuse the Transport Ministry of having illegally granted some 50,000 trucking licenses based on mutual favors between corrupt officials and selected companies.

Neoliberalism has, according to the striking truckers, also led to a process that aims at privatizing the maintenance of highways. If implemented, the charging of freight tolls would also be left to private, including transnational corporations. The development would not only line the pockets of the owners of these corporations and of corrupt officials, but to poorer road maintenance and security. Adding gasoline to the fire, say truckers, is the fact that the government, despite plummeting crude prices, denied to lower fuel prices.

The truckers stress that clauses in the controversial free trade agreement between Colombia and the United States are at the root of the ongoing push for the monopolization of the trucking business and the Colombian economy as a whole. In 2015 Colombia’s farmers and truckers also went on strike over similar complaints about the impact of the free trade agreement.

At least one of the protesting truckers died after being struck by one of the tear gas grenades police uses to disperse truckers who block roads to vent their anger and frustration at the government and its policies. Following the truckers death, the government would initially attempt to cover up the shooting and claim that the protester had died while he attempted to handle explosives. The allegations evaporated after truckers produced a video of the incident.

Meanwhile the United States responded to the situation by issuing a travel advisory. The U.S. State Department advised U.S. citizens against traveling to Colombia and advised U.S. citizens in Colombia to stay off the roads if possible. The travel advisory came after the truckers responded to the government’s unwillingness to negotiate and police violence, prompted the trucker’s union to announce that they would begin to block all major roads in and out of the capital Bogota.

F/AK & A/N nsnbc 19.07.2016

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