Throughout 2016, prolonged trucking conflicts led by both business organizations and labor unions have disrupted several South American countries. Trucking is a strategic operation that can paralyze a country's economic activity if its leaders decide to do so (NotiSur, Oct. 27, 2000).
While conflicts in this sector have been cyclical, this year, and for the first time, truckers in Peru and five neighboring countries--Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador--began a joint shutdown on June 15 that blocked traffic on roads and bridges, causing a serious setback for regional trade. Only pedestrian traffic was permitted. This action, applied equally by owners and workers, originates from a 2012 tax levied in Peru by the government of then-President Ollanta Humala that, if unpaid, was resulting in the accumulation of fines of US$150,000 per driver. A document prepared jointly by organizations in the six countries denounced the measure as an "abusive tax outside of existing international agreements." The strike ended after 14 days, when the Peruvian Congress annulled the provision and its expanding sanctions.
Strike threatens peace process in Colombia
Before and after, the use of force remained a constant. On June 7, as the Colombian government negotiated a peace agreement with guerrilla fighters and a national peace mobilization called the Agrarian, Farm Workers, Ethnic, and Popular Summit (Cumbre Agraria, Campesina, Etnica, y Popular) was being organized, Colombian truckers went on a strike that lasted until July 22. The strike left two dead and caused major losses in the coffee, poultry, and rice sectors. The government also said it caused inflation to rise at least 0.8%. That trucking shutdown, in which both business owners and workers participated, called for the annulment of a program of "scrapping" (replacement of trucks older than 15 years), elimination of tolls, and the establishment of fuel subsidies.
Critics said the strike was not a true labor action, but part of a right-wing de-legitimization campaign promoted by the opponents of the peace accord. As proof, they noted that participating truck drivers were carrying black flags, the symbol chosen by former President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010) to oppose the policies of President Juan Manuel Santos. Uribe was the leader of the opposition to the accords with the guerrillas.
Truckers lifted the strike after 45 days
To break the truckers, the government invoked an austere package of measures that...