Chile truckers launch strike to protest fuel prices
SANTIAGO, June 3 |
SANTIAGO, June 3 (Reuters) - Thousands of Chilean drivers parked their trucks along national highways on Tuesday to protest soaring fuel prices in a tacit rejection of government fuel subsidies announced amid fanfare this week.
Soaring global oil prices have provoked protests around the world and consumers in Europe and Britain called for "global solutions" to the energy crisis last week.
In Chile, at least 60,000 vehicles were parked on highway shoulders early Tuesday, although drivers pledged not to obstruct passage along the routes.
"We are parked on highways to draw attention to the fact that we've run out of gas and had to pull off the road," Juan Araya, president of the National Confederation of Truck Owners, told reporters.
The protests came a day after Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced a $1 billion dollar cash subsidy to consumer fuel prices to cushion the impact of soaring global oil prices.
The funds will cut prices of fuel at pumps as long as global prices are high.
In recent months, global oil prices have soared to more than $125 per barrel these days compared to $65 a barrel a year ago.
Chilean truckers called the price stabilization fund announced this week nothing more than a Band-Aid measure and publicity stunt.
They are demanding the government remove the tax on diesel altogether, and argue it was imposed during Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship to maintain freeways that have now been replaced by toll highways.
Bachelet made no mention of cutting the tax during her speech on Monday.
Television images showed large trucks loaded with cargo and parked along highways up and down Chile starting near midnight on Monday.
"People are demonstrating their anger over months of fruitless talks with authorities," said Araya. "There have been no concrete solutions."
The protest came on top of a strike in its fourth day at one of Chile's largest ports, San Antonio, where at least 14 container ships were held up amid a walkout by workers.
The truckers' strike was due to go until Wednesday. (Additional reporting by Pav Jordan; writing by Pav Jordan; Editing by John Picinich)
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