Paraguayan transport drivers crucify themselves in sacking protest



Over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was crucified to save mankind from their sins.

Today in Paraguay, a number of drivers from the urban public transport company have undergone crucifixions to save their jobs and to secure the right to join a union.

The drivers have been on strike since 25 July and nine of them – eight men and one woman – have undergone crucifixions opposite the bus stop at Vanguardia S.A Línea 30 company in Luque City, 15 kilometres from the Paraguayan capital of Asunción.

On Tuesday, 10 September, the drivers and trade unionists, loaded onto carts, made a pilgrimage to Asunción from Luque to seek a solution to their labour dispute at the Vice Ministry for Labour.

Four of the drivers have been on hunger strike for in excess of 20 days.

They are employing these extreme measures to force their employer to reinstate the ten drivers that were sacked for joining a union and fighting for their rights.

“It’s hard to believe, but it’s true,” said Damián Espinola, spokesperson for the municipal government of Luque.

“The eight bus drivers have been crucified for 17 days. They are also on hunger strike and some of them are in a critical condition. They will only drink water and will not consume any solid food. Their hands are perforated.”

In solidarity, Maria Concepción Candia, the wife of one of the leaders of the Federación Nacional de Transporte Terrestre, Juan Villalba, followed suit, to show that the suffering resulting from an unfair dismissal affects not only the worker but the family as a whole.



The workers also claim their workload is excessive; they spend between 15 to 18 hours per day behind the wheel.

They also denounce the practice of making employees sign 12 blank sheets of paper when they join the company. These are later completed as and when required and used against them.

The Ministry of Justice and Labour has already intervened in this case through tripartite meetings but they failed to deliver positive results.

This failure clearly highlights their negligence in implementing laws that protect workers’ rights and which consequently allows Vanguardia company management to operate in a way that shows a complete lack of respect for the country’s laws.

“Both sides need to make some concessions to make progress with the negotiations. Meanwhile, we will continue our work, acting as mediators so that we can help the parties reach an agreement,” said Cynthia González, Deputy Minister of Labour.

The crucified workers are in very poor health as a result of the injuries sustained from the nails and although they receive medical attention, they are getting weaker each day.

Amidst all the demonstrations and the forceful measures that have been used in Paraguay, the case of the Línea 30 drivers is one of the most emblematic because their demands are so basic.