Truckers block roads in Chile for the fourth consecutive day this Thursday (24), and supply is beginning to be impaired in several regions of the country. Critics of the government of the leftist Gabriel Boric, the protesters demand a reduction in the price of fuel.
Protests take place mainly in the North and Central regions. On some roads, truck drivers completely block the way; in other stretches, they occupy lanes and make partial interdictions, which also hinder the transit of vehicles and the circulation of goods.
Trade representatives are concerned about possible emptying of shelves and depletion of stocks. A union in the supermarket sector issued a statement on Thursday reporting that, in recent hours, logistical difficulties “altered the normal supply” in units across the country.
“This mobilization complicates us because it occurs right at the beginning of the most important harvest season and for the export of fruit, key to the country’s food and income,” said Cristián Allendes, president of the National Society of Agriculture.
Truck drivers demand, among other points, a 30% reduction and a six-month freeze on fuel prices, in addition to more effective safety measures on Chilean roads. According to the GlobalPetrolPrices website, on Monday (21) a liter of gasoline cost an average of US$ 1.51 (R$ 8) in Chile. For comparison purposes, on the same day, Brazilians paid an average of R$ 5 for the product.
Finance Minister Mário Marcel said that implementing the required measures would impact public coffers by US$2.6 billion (R$13.8 billion), making the demands disproportionate. The amount, according to him, represents two and a half times the amount disbursed with aid paid to 7 million people and almost the entire primary health budget.
On an official visit to Mexico, Boric said that the demonstrations are groundless and said he had instructed ministers to use “all legal tools to protect the functioning of the country and the most vulnerable sectors”. He added that he plans to resort to the State Security Law, which typifies crimes against national sovereignty and security, including public order disturbances.
On Monday, the government proposed to the National Confederation of Truck Owners to freeze fuel prices for three months. The proposal, however, was not accepted by the leadership of the movement. Cristian Sandoval, one of the coordinators, said that it was not satisfactory.
Despite the denial, the government insists that truck drivers stop the demonstrations. “A prolonged strike is not against the government; it attacks Chileans,” said Undersecretary of the Interior Manuel Monsalve.
Boric assumed the presidency in March. In September, less than six months into office, he suffered his first significant defeat when he saw a new constitution rejected by a wide margin. Despite not having openly supported the passage, the administration is weakened by the fact that the proposed Charter was one of the engines of its political coalition and an essential part of its campaign.
The leftist emerged on the political scene in the context of student protests in 2011, which called for reforms in the educational system. In 2019, new demonstrations expanded the demands for the Social Security, health and housing sectors. The current president was one of the articulators of the agreement that calmed the streets and pressured the right-wing government of Sebastián Piñera to start the constituent process.