The fifth year of the financial and economic crisis in Venezuela has led citizens to increasingly invade trucks that transport food products. The situation is so serious that the drivers themselves do not define their occupation as a job but a survival.
Midnight. A truck with 20 tons of fruit, recently harvested at the foot of the Andes for sale in the capital of the country, Caracas, races on one of the most dangerous, 900 km-long roads in Latin America. It is Umberto Aguilar, 36 years old, who realizes that this ride is a big threat. Not only for the load – also for his life.
Every time I say goodbye to my family before the tour, I entrust my life to God – says Umber Aguilar, who recently experienced a life-threatening situation, when a group of people attacked his truck convoy, in an interview with the news agency Reuters.
In January 2018, about 162 attacks were recorded on the roads of Venezuela. 42 trucks were robbed. Eight people died. In January last year, there were „only” up to eight such cases, including one for a lorry.
Robberies, in a country with one of the highest homicide rates in the world, increase prices of products and their transport. This is happening in a hyperinflationary economy where food products are extremely expensive.
All this makes life difficult for lorry drivers who have already encountered bribes, the price jumps for car parts and big queues at gas stations for fuel. And worst of all, the truckers cannot even defend themselves against the attacks, since possession of a weapon in Venezuela is forbidden.
For this reason, drivers join in groups and move on the road as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, even when they manage to reach the cities, truckers have to pay gangs for permission to trade the delivered goods.
It’s madness. The authorities are not able to provide us with security. People are getting used to an easy life of plundering” – says Javier Escalante, owner of two trucks. Every week, he transports fruit from La Grita to Guatire.
– And if we stop working, what will we live with? What will Venezuelans eat? How will manufacturers sell their goods? – asks Javier Escalante.
As the drivers claim, criminals use different methods depending on the location and purpose of the robbery. Sometimes the tractor is surrounded by armed motorcyclists, forcing the drivers to brake. In other cases, thieves wait for the vehicle to slow down, for example on a bumpy road, then cut the tarpaulin and enter the semi-trailer. Then they simply throw goods out of the vehicle onto the road where others are waiting for them.
It happens that thefts take place in parking lots during stops. This is what ordinary residents do, not organized groups. In this way, they want to get food or something for sale.
Passivity and humility
Despite the many chilling stories about robberies on truckers, thieves are mostly interested in cargo. If nobody resists, the criminals try not to hurt the drivers or destroy their vehicles.
Jon Eskalante, 43 years old, says one of his trucks broke down on the road one day. Jon had to stop and repair the tractor. At some point, about 60 people appeared out of nowhere and surrounded the tractor. Within a few moments, the crowd increased to 300 people.
They came and like the ants unloaded the whole truck. They took everything: potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots. I loaded the truck all day, and they unloaded it within 30 minutes” – says the entrepreneur.
The best attitude in such situations is passivity.
– When people are hungry, they can be dangerous – says entrepreneur Roberto Maldonado, who handles all the paperwork for truck drivers in La Grite – it is best to demonstrate humbleness in such situations.