Spanish authorities deploy 23,000 police amid trucker strike

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s government said Thursday it is mobilizing more than 23,000 police to crack down on striking truck drivers blamed for attacks on colleagues who haven’t joined the open-ended walkout.

Transport Minister Raquel Sánchez claimed “a group of extremists bent on blackmailing this country” is behind the attacks, saying they were linked to far-right groups. She offered no evidence for her claim.

The attacks by roadside picketers this week have allegedly included throwing rocks at trucks on the road, tearing cargo tarps and puncturing truck tires, as well as threatening working drivers with violence.

High fuel prices prompted the walkout.

“This violent behavior is not representative of the transport sector,” Sánchez said. “We are sensitive (to the difficulties over fuel prices), but we won’t give in to this blackmail.”

Police across Spain have orders to ensure that essential goods are delivered, that essential services are maintained, and that those truckers who want to work can, the Interior Ministry said.

Police videos showed officers escorting convoys of dozens of trucks along highways, and patrol cars stationed at key junctions.

The open-ended strike, which began Monday, is not supported by Spain’s main transport trade unions nor its road haulage federations.

The government says the strikers, some of whom say they are self-employed, are a minority of the country’s truckers.

Even so, their walkout threatened to disrupt national supply chains, with some businesses reporting shortages of fresh produce such as milk and fish. El Pais newspaper reported that some factories had shut.

The strikers also protested by driving slowly in convoys, snarling traffic.

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