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Protests spread as prices soar


France is braced for motorway gridlock on Monday when all major haulage unions will unite for the first time in nationwide go-slows. In what they term their “operation escargot”, French truckers are urging motorists to join them at a snail’s pace to paralyse traffic on ring roads and city centres. Hauliers want to force the government to lower fuel prices and tax, and harmonise the cost of diesel and petrol across Europe.

This comes after a week of protests that have seen truckers paralyse Toulouse’s ring road during rush hour, Bordeaux gridlocked by protesting hauliers, tractor protests in the north of France and the Spanish border route sealed. 
Angelique Chrisafis


Spain and Portugal are still reeling after lorry drivers’ strikes caused widespread disruption this week. Blockades across major routes in both countries cut food supplies and left shoppers facing empty supermarket shelves.

Petrol stations ran dry as panic-buying spread, tourists faced delays as Lisbon airport ran out of fuel and car companies, Nissan, Seat, Ford and Citroen, closed due to lack of parts. Tonnes of fresh food were dumped while shoppers faced price rises. In Alicante fruit sellers said prices had gone up 50%.

Two strikers were killed, near Granada and north of Lisbon, as they tried to stop vehicles passing picket lines. After thousands of police cleared blockades clashes with pickets led to 101 arrests and 605 fines for disorderly conduct. Lorry drivers protesting against rising fuel costs vowed to carry on their stoppage. 
Graham Keeley


Sporadic protests over soaring fuel prices have paralysed motorways and cities across Latin America this month.

A truckers’ strike in Chile shut main transport arteries, causing supermarkets to run out of meat, service stations to run out of petrol and a risk that hospitals could be left with no oxygen.

The national confederation of truckers demanded that the government cut diesel taxes and road tolls to cushion a 50% rise in diesel prices. Goods piled up at ports and some bus companies cancelled services when an estimated 6,000 trucks camped on roads and motorways.

The government offered a $1bn (£513m) fuel price stabilisation fund but truckers rejected that as too feeble.

Transport workers in Nicaragua and Panama marched to demand government help to protect their livelihoods. Traffic jams snarled up Panama City, and in Managua the vehicles of strike-breaking taxi and truck drivers were stoned.

In Venezeula bus drivers went on strike after the government ordered them to cut prices, a decision swiftly rescinded.
Rory Carroll


Countries across south-east Asia are reeling from protests over fuel price rises after governments lifted subsidies that had cushioned the poorest consumers. Thailand is planning cash handouts for up to a year for food and fuel in an effort to mollify truckers threatening to bring Bangkok to a standstill on Tuesday.

Indonesia, which had some of the lowest pump prices in Asia, raised prices by an average of 28.7% in May, sparking protests. Police in Malaysia braced for a mass opposition rally yesterday in Kuala Lumpur after petrol prices were raised by 41% and diesel by 63% last week when government subsidies were removed. In the Philippines, where pump prices have risen by 24% this year, demonstrators demanding that a sales tax on fuel be dropped brought traffic to a standstill around the presidential palace on Thursday. 
Ian MacKinnon


China has put a six-month freeze on prices but state-run oil refineries and suppliers are complaining that they are making a loss, even with government subsidies and tax breaks to ease the pain. Many have slowed supplies, forcing petrol stations in some areas to close for long stretches of the day or to impose limits. 
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