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Guatemala Shut Down Bus Drivers on Strike

ANTIGUA, Guatemala- “They are shooting each other in San Lucas,” a travel agent spoke to me as she made phone calls trying to reroute tourists on private shuttles around the road blocks.

The bus drivers of Guatemala said Ya Basta — they did not get into their buses this morning, rather they chose to block off major roads around the country. Transportation is grinding to a halt, all of the schools are closed, Guatemala’s gears are grinding.

ANTIGUA, Guatemala- “They are shooting each other in San Lucas,” a travel agent spoke to me as she made phone calls trying to reroute tourists on private shuttles around the road blocks.

The bus drivers of Guatemala said Ya Basta — they did not get behind steering wheels this morning, instead, they got behind roadblocks. Many major roads around the country were shut down, in the early morning hours no traffic could reach the Guatemala City airport. Transportation has been drawn to a halt, all of the schools are closed, Guatemala’s gears are grinding.

I watch as a group of tourists return to their hotel after they missed their 4AM flight. They were held behind a roadblock, there was no way through to the airport.

The bus drivers of Guatemala are fed up with being assassinated. The gang networks of the country extort money from these drivers almost daily, if they can’t pay, they are shot dead. Hundreds of bus drivers have been killed in this way in Guatemala City, today the drivers said enough.

They want protection, and they are willing to shut the country down to get it.

Public bus in Guatemala

Last night, under the cover of Semana Santa festivities, the bus drivers shut down strategic highways around the country. As the people of Guatemala were crowding the streets watching the procession of Jesus, the holy mother Mary, and a reenactment of the stations of the cross, the bus drivers were plotting their bid for protection.

When people awoke the next morning from their holy day celebrations, they found the country ground to a halt. There were no public buses running in Guatemala, not even school buses, and many major transportation thoroughfares were shut down.

This morning there were shootouts at the roadblocks. I am unsure who was shooting who, but it seems as if the government is clearing the road ways.

“At 12 o’clock the roads will be open, it just came out on the news, so I can sign you up for Pacaya,” the travel agent said as she hung up the telephone.  Apparently, Guatemala claimed that the roads will soon be cleared.

It is undetermined if the drivers will be offered protection, but one thing is for certain: Guatemala needs buses, the country runs on the back of public transportation, without it, people cannot get to work, and the country grinds to a stand still. If the government does not provide the bus drivers with protection against extortion and stabilize the public transportation system, Guatemala will be shut down.

Bus drivers are on strike in Guatemala

Filed under: Current Events — Politics — Guatemala Travelogue Entries

Filed under: Bus Travel, Current Events, Danger, Guatemala, Politics

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3413 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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6 comments… add one

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  • Caitlin March 22, 2010, 3:45 pm

    Hm, not surprised that it has come to this. 8-10 drivers and ayudantes killed per day might be a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly not by much.

    In many countries – like Mexico, for example – there is a lot of armed violence but a large proportion of victims are those directly tied up in the drug trade. Not so in Guatemala, it seems that there’s a lot more innocent victims.

    Looking forward to reading more updates from Guatemala.

    PS: you have been officially rebuttal’ed on yel kaye 😛

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 22, 2010, 5:49 pm

      Hello Caitlin,

      Yeah, that number seems high, but I suppose it represents a rise in the killings. A few days ago the bus companies suspended service to two districts of Guatemala City, and today there were strikes.

      I will check your site now.

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • Mark March 22, 2010, 10:33 pm

    8-10 bus drivers per MONTH would be about twice the normal rate. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8386584.stm

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  • Jody March 24, 2010, 12:46 pm

    Below are stats came from a Laht.com article about the March 22, 2010 Guat transport strike:

    “In 2009, 146 bus drivers and 60 assistants were murdered, while so far in 2010 more than 20 have been killed in violent incidents.”

    That would be 12 drivers or 17 incl assistants murdered per month during 2009. Probably there are insufficient data for 2010 to determine if the trend has changed.

    Jody

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 28, 2010, 4:33 pm

      Thanks Jody,

      The word on the streets were that 8 to 10 were being killed daily leading up to the strike, though this seems vastly too high. The numbers you cite seem more realistic.

      Thanks,

      Wade

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  • Jason March 25, 2010, 12:49 am Link Reply