After 45 days, government officials and truckers have ended a transport strike that disrupted the Colombian economy, sent food prices skyrocketing, and led to violent outbreaks in which one man was killed and vast sums of property were destroyed. The drivers, who sought concessions on fuel costs, tolls, and benefits, shut down a key transport route in the department of Boyaca and caused localized congestion in other areas before finally relenting after six weeks of protest.
Those key cost breaks are not included in the final deal, with Colombian President Juan Manual Santos noting that such provisions would damage the economy’s competitiveness and lead to a “permanent increase in costs for families.” But the union leaders did receive a guarantee of a new vehicle replacement policy, increased health and safety benefits for truckers, and considerations for a housing under a new program, among other compromises.
“This strike, which lasted 45 days, has been very costly for everyone,” said President Santos this morning. “It has affected the economy, the productive sector, farmers, households, and our own transportation sector.”
On top of the violent outbursts between truckers, locals, and police — which led to 1,300 truckers having their licenses suspended, according to Santos — the strike had major effects on food costs. With a critical section of the transportation network, located roughly 120 miles from the capital, largely paralyzed since June 7, cargo shipments plummeted. The cost of goods such as potatoes and plantains jumped by some 20% in the first month of the strike, according to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). As a result, inflation rose to 8.6% — the highest level in more than a decade and a half.
“Blocking roads is not only illegal, but triggers inflation, which affects the poorest citizens,” said Santos. On Twitter, the president added that, while the government respects the protest, those who committed violence and assault will face justice. “We’ll go after responsible for public disorder.”