ARGENTINA – Argentina’s police decided to block one of the major roads leading into the capital Buenos Aires to stop truck drivers from joining a massive protest in downtown Argentina. Argentinians are protesting over rising gasoline prices and fuel shortages across South America. Many South Americans blame poor government policies and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Cars were backed up for several miles until truckers agreed to open up a lane to regular traffic as they moved to take a protest over diesel shortages and prices that has been going on for weeks in Argentina’s capital.
Argentina is only one of several countries in South America to see repercussions from increasing fuel prices, mainly as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
On Monday, truckers in Peru started an indefinite strike to protest higher diesel prices, while in Ecuador, at least five people died during a two-week protest over high fuel prices.
In Brazil, the chief executive of state-run oil giant Petrobras resigned last week amid political pressure due to higher fuel prices.
Unfortunately, the issue of higher gas prices and inflation has spread throughout the world.
Drivers around the world are feeling the pain at the pump as gasoline and diesel prices are soaring in large part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as well as the global economic rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.
That pain is turning into social unrest in several countries in Latin America, where quickening inflation, itself fueled by higher energy prices, is making it difficult for many in one of the world’s most unequal regions to make ends meet.
The truckers protesting in Argentina are also demanding higher fees to transport grains.
Truckers have been protesting for weeks due to a shortage of diesel in gas stations around the country, and their failed attempt to enter the capital was part of an effort to get the attention of the government of President Alberto Fernandez.
“They’re giving us 60 liters per day to work,” Rubén Darío Fernández, a 61-year-old trucker who was among those trying to enter the capital Tuesday, said. “The problem is you can’t make long trips nor work all week with that.”
In Ecuador, President Guillermo Lasso abruptly cut dialogue Tuesday with the most influential Indigenous group leading the protest following an attack by demonstrators that killed one military officer and wounded 12 others who were escorting a fuel convoy in the Amazon.
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities has been leading a strike for more than two weeks to call for a decrease in fuel prices and other demands, including a more extensive health and education budget.
Negotiations were called off a day after the protesters, and government officials sat down to talk for the first time since the strike started.
The Argentina protest stands apart from other similar demonstrations in the region because it has more to do with shortages rather than high prices, as there are problems obtaining diesel in 23 of Argentina’s 24 provinces, according to the federation of truckers.
But truckers also contend the shortage is leading to price hikes.
“They charge whatever they want for the little diesel there is,” Roberto Arce, a 49-year-old truck driver at the protest Tuesday, said.
Argentina’s government has vowed that the supply problems will end soon. In a local radio interview Saturday, Transportation Minister Alexis Guerrera said that things should be back to normal “within the next 15 or 20 days.”
Argentina tightly controls prices at the pump and relies on imports for around one-quarter of its diesel consumption.
State-controlled oil company YPF, Argentina’s largest producer and refiner, said Monday it would import ten diesel cargoes within the next 45 days to help ease the shortage.
Argentina’s fuel production has failed to keep up with demand, creating a bottleneck at a key time for the country’s crop harvest as the agricultural sector and truckers used to transport production to port mostly rely on diesel for fuel.
Argentina’s diesel sales increased 16% in the 12 months ending in April, while production rose less than half that amount at 7%, according to a recent report by the Argentine Energy Institute.