Heralded as the “Five Days of Sicily,” members of the Pitchforks Movement of farmers, and the Shock Force truck drivers’ consortium have paralyzed the Italian island, Sicily.
Striking transportation workers are blocking main roads with their trucks to protest against Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti’s cutbacks. The drivers, belonging to the Association of Sicilian Businesses, have also been joined by farmers and fishermen.
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Truck Strike Spreads From Sicily to Rest of Italy
The main complaint of the protesters is the excessive rise in fuel costs. According to the organizers, the five-day strike that will last until Friday night.
Long lines have formed at the few remaining gas stations with fuel on hand. Roads, railways, and ports have been blocked in different parts of Sicily. Two ferries that were ready to set sail to Naples and Genoa, were forced to dock at the southern port city of Palermo, while some buses belonging to the Catania-Palermo line have canceled their routes, reported Italian news agency ANSA.
In the town of Santa Flavia, which is 20 km (about 12 miles) from Palermo, a near-tragedy was avoided when more than 200 fishermen, accompanied by their wives and children, blocked the railroad tracks just before a scheduled train was to pass.
The town’s mayor, Antonio Napoli, said, “These people are desperate because, due to European Union regulations, they are no longer able to fish. The cost of diesel has also increased from [1.30 to 1.80 euros] per liter in three years,” according to Corriere Della Sera, one of Italy’s main newspapers.
The protest has also affected the residents of Messina, the third largest city in Sicily, where more than 100 taxi drivers protested against the city government’s plan to stimulate the economy by liberalizing the sector. Under the proposed plan, all holders of taxi licenses would be able to own and run more than one taxi, accompanied by the general lowering of applicable licensing fees. Taxi drivers complain that this would make licenses far too easy to get, resulting in fierce competition in the sector.
Elsewhere on the island, a demonstrator in the town of Lentini, near the city of Siracusa, was stabbed in the face by a fruit vendor who tried to make his way past the blockade organized by the truck drivers. The victim, a 32-year-old farm worker, was taken to a hospital and was said to be in stable condition, according to ANSA.
The protest threatens to further paralyze the island in the coming days. “It is a peaceful revolution and we do not want to damage the Sicilians. Instead, we want to make everyone understand that solutions must be found to this crisis. We’ll be here night and day until Friday,” one protesters told the Corriere.