Colombia reaches deal with truckers to lift 45-day strike

Cyclists near burning tires Cyclists are seen near a burning tires during a truckers' strike in Bogota, Colombia, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/John Vizcaino

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s government and truckers reached a deal on Friday to lift a strike that has stretched 45 days, snarling coffee exports and pushing inflation higher as foodstuff was blocked from moving around the nation.

The two sides reached agreement on cargo prices and the gradual removal of old vehicles, ending the longest and most costly strike in Colombian history, but failed to agree on toll road and fuel costs.

“The immobilization of cargo transport has been lifted,” Transport Minister Jorge Eduardo Rojas told reporters.

One person was killed during clashes, and the governor of Boyaca province was injured in a highway accident that authorities blamed on the protesters.

Trucks blocking highways were impounded, and the government said drivers or truck owners participating in violent protests would have their licenses revoked and face fines.

The strike, which began in early June, caused sharp rises in food prices, clogged ports and hit exports of the country’s high-quality arabica coffee.

Coffee growers are already struggling because of a drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, and are bracing for coming heavy rains, but the strike may send exports plunging by half in July, the coffee federation told Reuters recently.

High food prices have helped push 12-month inflation to 8.60 percent through June, more than double the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range.

(Reporting by Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta; Additional reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Julia Symmes Cobb and Bernadette Baum)

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