With less than two weeks to local elections Chilean President Ricardo Lagos faces a major labour challenge from truckers who have begun a national strike and are blocking some of the main routes of the country.
Truckers are demanding a 50% reduction in fuel taxes and have promised that they will continue until the government responds positively to their demand.
But government officials have warned that they will enforce an internal security bill that enables authorities to jail those who promote strikes and disturbances to law and order.
The truckers dispute comes at a particularly difficult moment for President Lagos since polls indicate that the ruling coalition, "Concertación Nacional" could very well loose control of ten leading municipalities in the country, including Santiago, Concepción, Viña del Mar, Rancagua and Arica.
Conservative Joaquín Lavín who was barely defeated by Mr. Lagos in the presidential election is several points ahead in Santiago of the ruling coalition candidate and former Chilean First Lady, Martha Larraechea Frei.
"In spite of the polls we challenge the opposition to repeat on October 29th. the 47% vote they managed last December", said Guido Gerardi, coordinator of the ruling coalition campaign.