The Spanish government has mobilised 16,476 Guardia Civil and 7,122 National Police officers to prevent violent behaviour from the pickets during the protest by hauliers, and says it is prepared to take action to protect supplies.
Pickets have been gathering at strategic points such as the entrances to markets and ports and blocking roads to stop lorries getting through, and the dairy industry has already been forced to suspend its activity because it lacks the necessary supplies to produce its products.
This has also had an effect in some supermarkets, where there is a lack of basic items. The Minister for Transport, Raquel Sánchez, said on Thursday that the government will not negotiate with those who have organised the protest, which she described as a minority group, because they are not part of the National Road Transport Committee, with whom the government is engaging to try to find a solution to the rising fuel costs. “I am not going to sit down with a group of radicals who act with violence,” she said after a meeting with representatives of the sector.
After the meeting, which was also attended by officials from public companies such as the president of Aena, Maurici Lucena, and Renfe, Isaías Táboas, the minister said the pickets were from radical right groups. “They are ultras who are strongly supported by the far right and are not interested in dialogue. They just want to use violence to get their own way” she said, stressing that although the government is sensitive to the situation currently suffered by the sector, it was not going to give in to sabotage which aims to damage the supply chain and industrial activities.
The dairy sector is a particular concern because farmers will have to throw away thousands of litres of milk if it can’t be transported to the factories. At the moment the supermarkets have stocks of dairy products, but if milk isn’t collected there could be serious problems ahead.
However, the problem also affects other farms, with the UPA union pointing out that most of them lack enough storage to stock up on animal feed, so within a few days they may not be able to feed their livestock.
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Thursday that the government will do everything possible to reduce fuel prices, but he also stressed that the sector cannot be expected to work for less than its costs. Although he didn’t specify any definite measures the government has in mind to resolve the situation, “we are not going to get out of this by throwing stones at hauliers, or attacking those who want to ensure that products reach the supermarkets,” he said.