Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Drivers plan national strike to protest highway insecurity

A coalition of transport drivers from across Mexico is preparing a national strike on Feb. 5, to protest rising insecurity on national highways.

In a statement, the Coalition of United Organizations of Motor Transport called for an end to the violence suffered by industry workers and condemned the federal government for failing to tackle the issue.

Mexico’s highways can often be unsafe for transport drivers, with robberies and even murders becoming increasingly commonplace. (Margarito Pérez Retano/Cuartoscuro)

“We demand an urgent solution to the insecurity that threatens the life, integrity and freedom of people and drivers,” the statement said. “We are living in a crisis situation due to the insecurity that exists on the national road network, the solution to which cannot wait any longer.”

The group called on drivers of all forms of transport to join the strike, while apologizing to the citizens who would be affected.

In recent weeks, several industry bodies have highlighted alarming levels of insecurity on Mexico’s highways. The National Chamber of Freight Transportation (Canacar) recorded nearly 13,000 freight robberies in 2023, and the Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Concamin) reported that 85,000 trucks have been targeted in robberies during the five years of the Andrés Manuel López Obrador presidency, costing the economy over 7 billion pesos (US $415 million) per year.

Luis García López Guerrero, Director for Security Affairs at Canacar said that 10 states account for 93% of incidents, led by México State and Puebla, followed by Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, Michoacán, Jalisco, Hidalgo, Querétaro, Tlaxcala and Veracruz.

The government has said that the National Guard will increase patrols along major highways in response to increased robberies. (Carlos Alberto Carbajal)

Fear of violence has led to a national deficit of 50,000 truck drivers, according to Canacar, despite driver pay averaging between 60 and 70 thousand pesos (US $3,463-4,040) per month.

Petroleum, chemical and clothing trucks account for more than 80% of total robberies.

The Mexico-Querétaro highway has become a particular flashpoint for cargo robberies, with three cases of violence against truck drivers reported in one week alone. One driver was killed, another wounded, and another forced to leave his vehicle and board a pickup truck, before being released a few kilometers away. Rising violence sparked a protest on the highway by the Mexican Alliance of Transport Organizations (Amotac) in October 2023.

When questioned about the crisis at his morning press conference on Monday, President López Obrador said that the issue was being addressed by increased surveillance by the National Guard.

“We implemented a system of permanent patrols along the entire stretch from Mexico City to Acapulco, which has given us good results,” said National Guard commander David Córdova. “That is the procedure we are going to carry out, to increase patrols.”

Police surveillance is still in place on the highways of Veracruz following an upsurge of robberies last year, and the highways around Acapulco, Puebla and Querétaro have also been identified as in need of heightened security. 

With reports from Vanguardia and El País

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