Truckers had blocked major highways in Chile after a colleague died when migrants threw stones at his rig. The government has now called in the army to boost security.
Feb 13, 2022
Chilean truck drivers on Saturday lifted road blockades, imposed to protest the killing of a colleague, after the government pledged new safety measures.
The blockade prompted a five-hour meeting between Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado and the powerful truckers’ union on Saturday.
Afterward, the minister announced a state of emergency in the north of the country and stepped up police patrols to improve law and order.
Delgado said the measure would be introduced on Monday and called in the army to help “supervise and monitor the routes that the unions are most interested in.”
What triggered the protest?
For the past two days, the drivers blocked roads and set up barricades after three Venezuelan migrants threw rocks at a truck, killing a driver who refused to give them a ride.
The incident happened near the northern city of Antofagasta and a region hosting hundreds of thousands of migrants from Venezuela.
Police said the three alleged assailants have been arrested.
During this week’s protests, big rigs clogged roads in northern and central Chile, as well as on the outskirts of the capital, Santiago.
In the port city of Iquique, trucks sealed off the road to the airport, forcing the cancellation of all incoming and outgoing flights.
The truck driver’s death sparked calls for more anti-migrant protests of the kind that have unfolded over the past three weeks.
Why are Venezuelans fleeing to Chile?
Venezuela’s deep economic and political woes have spilled over to Chile and other Latin American countries, where millions have fled seeking better lives.
Nearly half a million are currently in Chile, according to the United Nations.
In towns and along roads in the north, it’s common to see migrant Venezuelan families camping out in public places and asking for money as they try to find work and start a new life.
At least 20 migrants have died trying to cross the country’s mountainous border at altitudes of up to 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), mainly from exposure to the cold.
The government of President Sebastian Pinera has been criticized for not doing more to prevent the arrival of so many migrants.
A new immigration law went into effect Saturday that the Chilean government said gives authorities greater powers to expel foreigners who have false papers or have dodged immigration controls.
The law will reportedly speed up the granting of visas to those who are eligible.