BOGOTA – Colombia’s government and truckers’ representatives reached an agreement early Friday to bring an end to a 45-day strike that had led to roadblock-triggered supply shortages and left one dead and several injured.
“The immobilization of cargo transport promoted by the four organizations (who organized under the slogan) ‘National Crusade for Truckers’ Dignity’ is over as of this moment,” Transport Minister Jorge Eduardo Rojas said at a press conference.
The agreement, signed in the wee hours of Friday, maintains the so-called “libertad vigilada” regime, whereby freight costs go up or down based on supply and demand but are monitored by the Transport Ministry, which can intervene if necessary.
The government refused to return to the previous system of minimum fixed tariffs, as truckers had demanded, but it agreed to update benchmark prices for freight so they reflect truckers’ true operating costs.
A one-for-one scheme for replacing old trucks with modern ones also was kept in place with the aim of “reducing oversupply,” the agreement stated.
The executive-director of the Cargo Transporters’ Association, Luis Orlando Ramirez, said the agreement “has a structural philosophy that values trucking activity in Colombia.”
The strike was launched to protest the government’s alleged non-compliance with issued related to fuel, toll and freight costs.
The situation was exacerbated when the blockade of a highway near the central city of Duitama led to a July 12 traffic accident that left Boyaca Gov. Cesar Andres Amaya Rodriguez and several of his aides seriously injured.
A protester identified as Luis Orlando Saiz died hours later in that same town after being struck in the face by a teargas grenade hurled by riot police.
Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas also said this week that 31 police officers were injured, two of them seriously, during the strike.
President Juan Manuel Santos responded to the roadblocks by imposing heavy fines and canceling the registration of vehicles used in the disruptive protests.
The blockades led to shortages of food and basic necessities in some regions, prompting the government to organize 2,452 caravans – made up of 40,000 vehicles escorted by members of the army and National Police – to get supplies to their destination.