Chile government pledges new safety measures after trucker protest

A truck driver protest causes a traffic jam near Iquique, Chile, on Feb 12, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SANTIAGO (AFP) - Chilean truck drivers lifted road blockades they had imposed to protest the killing of a colleague, after the government pledged new safety measures on Saturday (Feb 12).  

Truck drivers had been blocking roads and setting up barricades since a clash Thursday in which a colleague died near the northern city of Antofagasta.  

During the protest, big rigs clogged roads in northern and central Chile, as well as on the outskirts of the capital Santiago.

In the northern port city of Iquique, trucks sealed off the road to the airport, forcing the cancellation of all incoming and outgoing flights.

Police said the trucker died when three Venezuelans threw rocks at his rig because he refused to give them a ride.

The three alleged assailants have been arrested.  

To appease the protesting drivers, the government Saturday announced new crime-fighting measures in the north of the country allowing soldiers to assist police and stepped-up monitoring of roads from the ground and with aircraft.  

Interior Minister Rodrigo Delgado announced the measures after a five-hour meeting with a truck drivers’ union. He said they will go into force Monday.  

Immigration has become a sensitive subject in Chile because of the deep economic woes of Venezuela, from where millions have fled seeking better lives, spreading out across Latin America.  

In towns and along roads in northern Chile it is 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.  

The death of the truck driver prompted calls for more anti-migrant protests of the kind that have unfolded in Iquique and elsewhere in Chile’s north over the past three weeks.  

A new immigration law went into effect Saturday that the Chilean government says gives authorities greater powers to expel foreigners who have false papers or have dodged immigration controls. 

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