Striking truckers reject Spain’s offer of half-billion euros — Analysis

Striking truckers have rejected Madrid’s offer of a hefty subsidy to offset rising diesel prices, which the government had hoped would shut down a work stoppage that has snarled traffic across the country. 

Transport Minister Raquel Sanchez pledged to introduce a $551.35 million (€500 million) subsidy in direct aid to the industry on Tuesday after meeting with the National Road Transport Committee.

However, while Sanchez pointed out the measure was similar to moves taken by France, Portugal, and Italy to shore up their own industries in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, there will be no reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) on fuel, and strike organizers the Platform for the Defense of Transport did not attend the meeting, calling the government’s announcement “insufficient.” 

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Three Spanish truckers’ unions opted to join the Platform’s strike on Tuesday, potentially aggravating a food shortage across the country as trucks are already having difficulty making deliveries on time. The unions denounced the plan, scheduled to be approved March 29, in a joint statement, pointing out that it “doesn’t specify what it will comprise, how it will work, and, more importantly, how much aid each trucker would get.” 

Last Monday saw drivers who were not closely allied to the Platform stop working. Faced with an increase in diesel prices and increasing taxes, they demanded that the government reduce taxes and repeal regulations. “We will not be able to suspend small-truck drivers until we address the actual problems they face. [of the strike],” Platform president Manuel Hernandez told Reuters on Monday, saying drivers must be protected from taking on losses or else they faced “Total bankruptcy”.

Finance Minister Nadia Calvino, however, told reporters that the truckers should not reject the offer and that those who would “is clearly demonstrating that they are not defending the interests of this industry.”

The government’s plan was offered up following a European Commission meeting on a draft proposal for temporary crisis aid aimed at propping up the continent’s ailing economy as inflation and fuel prices soar, in part due to the sanctions imposed on Russia in the wake of its ongoing military offensive in Ukraine.

The EU gets more than 40% of its natural gasoline supply from Russia. However, it is being reported that the EU may consider an embargo against oil imports from Russia as part of the most recent round of sanctions designed to economically cripple the country. More than half of Russia’s oil exports are sent to Europe. However, several European countries like Germany and Bulgaria have suggested that an absolute ban on Russian fuel would be too much. 

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Madrid fired the truckers calling them unorganized, and trying to tie them to extremists of far right. Spain mobilized 23,000 police to try and crush the strike.

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