By Humphrey Carter

THE National Police force and the Guardia Civil have been put on standby to escort fuel and basic food convoys through the blockades of protesting truck drivers should the strike continue into next week and the situation seriously deteriorate.

The decision was taken yesterday by the central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias and similar orders have been issued to the National Police and the Guardia Civil in Valencia and Catalonia. Balearic government spokesperson Albert Moragues, explained that as soon as supplies of basic food stuffs reach a critical point, the police will be deployed to escort trucks in and out of the docks and to their final destination safely.

Moragues said that the Balearics has enough energy to power the region for two months and sufficient medical supplies to last at least five weeks.
According to him, the situation is under control, there is no need for alarm and he is confident the dispute will be resolved quickly “either this week or the next.” He recognised that some food stock, in particular fresh meat and fish are running out and explained that a special watchdog has been set up by the government to monitor the situation in local supermarkets and try to prevent panic buying on a large scale.

The inspectors will also make sure that supermarkets behave correctly and do not, as some have apparently been doing, hold back on stocking up certain products in order to generate a period of frenzied buying. But, not only is the domestic market complaining.

The overseas tourist industry is worried about the damage the transport strike will inflict on the country's image and the complications it will cause holiday makers if it continues.

Hotels and restaurants are also having to draw up contingency plans or prepare to close until the strike ends as they start to run out of stocks.
The Balearic Port Authority said yesterday that no merchant ships are expected to arrive from mainland Spain today but a fuel tanker will dock in Palma and Ibiza today.

A total of 30 crossings were canceled yesterday and shipping companies not only have a backlog of cargo, but passengers too.

Tensions continued to flare across the country yesterday.
At least three other lorries were also set alight early yesterday where some 300 commercial vehicles were parked in San Isidro, south-east Spain and a second day of talks between the government and hauliers' representatives was suspended after the death of the second truck driver was reported. Protesting drivers complain that the price of diesel has soared by more than 20% this year, and are calling for the government to enforce a minimum price for haulage, to prevent firms being undercut.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has offered hauliers emergency credit and early retirement incentives, but refuses to set minimum tariffs, saying they must accept fair competition.