Brazil’s government is scrambling to clear truck blockades of Bolsonaro supporters
SAO PAULO, Reuters – Brazilian authorities on Tuesday sought to ease blockades on trucks protesting the country’s presidential election results after signs they were disrupting fuel distribution, meat production and the ability to ship grain to a port.
The blockades were first reported on Sunday spreading demonstrations by truckers and other supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, challenging him narrow election loss leftist Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.
Truckers, one of Bolsonaro’s key constituencies and who have benefited from his policy of lowering fuel prices, have previously crippled Brazil’s economy by blocking highways in recent years.
Some truckers have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in power. The president gave it brief statement Tuesday afternoon, the first since Sunday’s vote, and said the protests reflected dissatisfaction with the electoral process, but said he would uphold the constitution, which provides for a January 1 transition.
Bolsonaro did not concede defeat, but his chief of staff said his team would begin the process of transitioning Lula’s government.
Bolsonaro said in his speech speech that protesters should refrain from destroying property or “obstructing the right to come and go” but were not told to go home.
The country’s infrastructure ministry said in a statement late in the day that it was asking for “support” from protesters to avoid supply shortages.
“We are working to resume the free movement of people and vehicles as soon as possible. As well as ensuring the right of way for our people to come and go, it is important to keep essential services and road transport running.” said the ministry.
By Tuesday evening, the federal highway police said, protesters were partially or completely blocking highways in about 190 locations, but that was slightly less than the number of jams earlier. About 419 roadblocks have been cleared, police said.
Earlier, protesters blocked the main access road to the important grain export port of Paranagua for a second day.
Meanwhile, poultry and pork processors may have to stop slaughtering at some locations as early as Wednesday, the source said.
In Santa Catarina, one of the states hardest hit by the protests, there have been disruptions to the delivery of animals for slaughter and to markets, according to the local pork lobby.
Fuel distribution was in a “critical situation”, said Valeria Lima, downstream director of energy lobby IBP, adding that she believed the government should set up a crisis committee to deal with the protesters.
The IBP said there was a high risk of fuel shortages in Santa Catarina and Paran, and possible outages in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s richest state.
course (RAIL3.SA)A major railroad company told Reuters that the protests had reduced the number of trucks at some of its terminals, while there were some disruptions to rail sections in Morretes, Paraná, and Joinville, Santa Catarina.
Mato Grosso, Brazil’s biggest grain producer, was hit hardest by roadblocks that began after polls closed on Sunday, police data showed, with at least 25 blockades or partial blockades as of Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities at the port of Santos, Latin America’s largest port, reiterated in the afternoon that everything remained normal because the protests had not disrupted its land-based operations.
Reporting by Ana Mano, Andre Romani, Marta Nogueira and Nayara Figueiredo Editing by Alistair Bell, Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler
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