Fuel and food shortages loom in Spain
Panic buying by consumers have resulted some petrol stations to run out of fuel in the first day of an indefinite nationwide strike by truckers.10 June 2008
MADRID - Trucks stopped rolling on Spain's roads Monday as transport workers protesting over high fuel prices blockaded highways leading to France and Portugal, slowed traffic to a crawl near major cities and attacked haulers refusing to second the strike.
Just hours into the first day of an indefinite nationwide strike by truckers, some gasoline stations in Catalonia and Madrid ran dry of fuel amid panic buying by commuters, while some stores said they could rapidly run out of fresh food if truckers fail to get back on the roads soon.
Though the protests passed without incident in much of the country, where trucks could be seen lining major highways and rest stops, several outbreaks of violence were reported on the Spanish-French border, where two Portuguese trucks trying to enter Spain were stoned by picketing drivers.
Nationwide, police reported two injuries from violence associated with the strike on Monday as well as damage to dozens of trucks that tried to stay on the roads.
Juan Miguel Sánchez, the Public Works Ministry's director general for road transport, said the government is considering providing convoys of truckers who still want to work with police protection as well as having the police escort tanker trucks carrying fuel supplies.
Negotiations with Fenadismer, the main union behind the strike, failed Monday to come up with a solution, with truckers' representatives saying the government is refusing to give into its main demands, including lower taxes on diesel fuel and establishing minimum haulage fees.
Sánchez, who on Sunday had promised "potent measures" to stop the strike, said Monday that he expects truckers to succumb to the "economic pressure" of not working and to start driving again in a few days.
On Monday, Galician farmers were unable to get milk to market, car factories in Catalonia could not export their vehicles and ports across the nation were blocked.
In Portugal, where truckers also began a strike yesterday, union representatives are threatening to "cut off" Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve unless the government cushions the blow from higher fuel costs.
[El Pais / Ángeles Espinosa / Expatica]