Like the Trudeau government, Pedro Sánchez’s ruling coalition blames the truckers’ strike on far-right elements while blaming Putin for record-high gas prices and decades-high inflation in Spain.
Spain’s already struggling economy is in a bind after an indefinite strike by truck drivers has brought a number of key industries to a halt. Called by the Platform for the Defense of Road Transport of Merchandise, the strike began on Monday and is being followed by an estimated 85% of smaller truck companies and self-employed truckers. They are protesting surging fuel prices, unfair competition by larger companies and poor working conditions.
Large logistics hubs such as Mercamadrid have been operating at half capacity for the past three days, with a drop of as much as 60% in the arrival of products such as fruit, vegetables, fish and shellfish. In Catalonia, where I’m writing this from, the problems seem to be less pronounced. Barcelona’s wholesale market Mercabarna has been receiving 11% less fish and 33% less vegetables, in particular eggplant, zucchini and peppers. As one might expect, panic buying has also exacerbated the shortages.
The main flashpoints are in southern and northern parts of the country, in regions such as Galicia, Cantabria and Andalusia. Some Cantabrian fishing fleets announced on Tuesday that they would halt their activity altogether as there was no way of guaranteeing that their haul would make it to market. The same is happening with fruit growers in the south of Spain. On Wednesday afternoon, the dairy industry confirmed that it will stop working as of Thursday because it cannot supply itself or distribute its products.
Some factories have also been forced to close due to a shortage of components. They include a sugar refinery belonging to Azucarera in Jerez de la Frontera and two steel manufacturing plants, one belonging to Arcelor Mittal in Asturias and the other to Acerinox in Los Barrios (Cádiz). An Opel factory in Zaragoza has also stopped its Line 1, where the Citroën C3 Aircross and the Opel Crossland are assembled, due to supply problems.
Ports have also been hit hard, as wsws reports:
Throughout Spain, major ports are not fully functioning. The port of Bilbao, one of the main entry points in northern Spain, is paralysed. “By road, no commodity is leaving the port of Bilbao, no one works in Santurtzi, the port is stopped 100 percent. No truck is loading,” a spokesperson for the Association of Self-Employed Carriers of the port of Bilbao told news agency EFE.
In Algeciras port, one of the world’s busiest transshipment hubs, the Algeciras Bay Container Transport Association, with a fleet of 1,000 trucks, is supporting the strike.
Pickets have taken place outside key logistics hubs, preventing non-striking truckers from reaching their pickup point. In some places violence has erupted. According to El Mundo, 1,700 trucks had already been vandalized by Thursday afternoon. At a picket line in the industrial zone in San Fernando de Henares, Madrid, two strikers were reportedly injured, one seriously, after an undercover policeman opened fire when one of them resisted arrest. The striker, aged 33, was rushed to hospital in serious condition with a gunshot wound to his abdomen.
The Sánchez government has responded to the crisis by pledging to reduce taxes on gasoline. It is also bolstering security at logistics centers across Spain and reinforcing police units on the country’s road network to guarantee the supply of essential goods and the right to work of carriers who do not support the strike. In total, the Government has deployed 24,000 additional police officers.
It is also following the by now dog-eared script of painting all the protestors as far-right agitators. It is the same playbook used by the Trudeau government in Canada against the so-called freedom truckers, as well as the governments of France, Germany, Austria and Italy against the anti-vaccine passport movements in their respective countries.
Sánchez has referred to the members of the Platform for the Defense of Road Transport of Merchandise as “ultras who are replacing the spoken word with sticks, nails and stones.” According to the Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda, Raquel Sánchez, the strike is not having much impact while “it is quite clear” that Spain’s resurgent far-right political party VOX is behind the movement.
The organizers behind the platform deny the allegations. But Spain’s far-right party VOX is lending its support to the movement. Whether this is out of pure political opportunism on the part of VOX or something more sinister is at work is hard to ascertain. Support for VOX, which has already participated in a number of coalition governments at the city and regional level, is on the rise while support for the PSOE’s junior partner in government, PODEMOS, is on the decline. As economic conditions deteriorate in Spain, the chances of a right-wing coalition including VOX winning the next elections, in 2023, will grow.
One thing that is clear is that the strikers have plenty of justifiable grievances, the most notable of which are record-high petrol prices and decades-high inflation…
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