Mexico on Edge
|Back to Features|
|Kent Paterson||August 6th 2012|
Fed up with deepening economic and security problems, Mexican truckers conducted convoy protests that brought traffic to a crawl on some of the nation’s highways this week. Thousands of independent truckers affiliated with the Mexican Alliance of Transporter Organizations (AMOTAC) participated in actions in at least 12 states.
Frustrated by earlier negotiations with federal officials, the truckers demanded a halt to the monthly price increases of diesel fuel, an end to extra-weight hauling by bigger competitors, the return of trucks confiscated by tax authorities, financial support for the small trucking sector, and a transfer of the highway division of the Federal Police from the Federal Secretariat of Public Safety to the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT). They also objected to expensive highway tolls, taxes and a host of other current policies.
“The (authorities) do not want to address the demands of the sector,” charged Lauro Rincon Hernandez, an AMOTAC regional coordinator in the state of Veracruz. “The July 31 meeting was not fruitful. That’s why we decided to do this protest, and because we’ve had enough of the abuse.”
However, a full-scale mobilization to Mexico City of truckers was called off while in progress when AMOTAC and the Calderon administration reportedly reached an agreement on at least some of the outstanding issues.
Protestor Carlos Martinez said truckers were in a financial squeeze. As an example, Martinez said the independent long-distance haulers might make a 20 percent profit from a shipment, but that any earnings are eaten up by vehicle repairs and other maintenance costs.
Deteriorating security conditions responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Mexicans” on the country’s highways contributed to the call for a national protest, AMOTAC said in a statement preceding the August 1 protests. The group repeated accusations that the Federal Police was responsible for the widespread extortion of independent truckers. The AMOTAC statement continued:
“We cannot allow these kinds of abuses to continue that will always be against the weakest, the least protected and the smallest, like the truckers, like the small businessman. We are the creators of thousands of jobs, the creators of wealth. We contribute to our country, and we are the vertebral column of our Mexico. We are the blood that the runs through the veins of Mexico.
We will not allow ourselves to be discriminated against and humiliated by our authorities like the SCT, which does not live up to its word to set up negotiating sessions, and the Federal Police, which is repressive and doesn’t resolve anything. We are Mexicans who have a right to dignified work and dignified treatment, as our Constitution establishes.”
Last December AMOTAC met with Federal Police officials, including Commissioner Facundo Rosas and General Coordinator Luis Cardenas Palomino, to discuss truckers’ grievances. At the meeting, AMOTAC leaders denounced Federal Police practices of charging “passage rights” to truckers in Aguascalientes and Jalisco, in a manner similar to organized criminal groups. Yet months later, complaints against the Federal Police still reverberate in the trucking community.
The Federal Police had no immediate comment on the August 1 protest.
Issuing a 7-point communiqué, the SCT contended that federal authorities had either complied with earlier AMOTAC demands such as reducing the allowable weights of truck loads or was simply enforcing existing regulations while reviewing others.
“Since the requests of AMOTAC are being addressed, demonstrations that affect third parties and are outside the law are considered unnecessary,” the federal agency said. “The SCT reiterates its commitment to having a regulation that strengthens the security and competitiveness of the trucking industry and its competitors.”
Kent Paterson edits Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news from the Center for Latin American and Border Studies at New Mexico State University.