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Brazil government seeks to clear truckers' pro-Bolsonaro blockades

Brazil government seeks to clear truckers' pro-Bolsonaro blockades
November 2, 2022 Reuters

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities sought to curtail truckers' blockages protesting the country's presidential election results after signs they were disrupting fuel distribution, meat production, and the ability to send grains to port.

Blockades were first reported on Sunday amid spreading demonstrations by truckers and other supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, challenging his narrow election loss to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Truckers, one of Bolsonaro's key constituencies and who benefited from his policies to lower fuel prices, have previously disrupted the Brazilian economy by shutting highways in recent years.

Some truckers have called for military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in power. The president gave a brief statement Tuesday afternoon, the first since the Sunday vote, and said the protests reflected dissatisfaction with the electoral process, but said he would abide by the constitution, which stipulates a transition of power of Jan. 1.

Bolsonaro did not concede defeat, but his chief of staff said their team would begin the process of transition to a Lula government.

Bolsonaro said in his speech that protesters should avoid destroying property or "impeding the right to come and go," but did not tell them to go home.

The country's Infrastructure Ministry said in a day-end statement that it was asking protesters' "support" to avoid supply shortages.

"We are working for the free movement of people and vehicles to be resumed as soon as possible. In addition to ensuring the right of our population to come and go, it is essential to maintain the operation of essential services and road freight transport," the ministry said.

Protesters were blocking highways partially or fully in about 190 locations as of Tuesday evening, according to the federal highway police, but that was down slightly from the number of blockages earlier. Police said some 419 roadblocks had been cleared.

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 halt slaughtering at some sites as early as Wednesday, a source said.

In Santa Catarina, one of the states hardest hit by the protests, there were disruptions to deliveries of animals for slaughter and shipment of products to markets, a local hog growers lobby said.

Fuel distribution was in "a critical situation," said Valeria Lima, downstream director at energy lobby IBP, adding that she believed the government should form a crisis committee to tackle the protesters.

The IBP said there was a high risk of fuel shortages in Santa Catarina and Parana, and potential disruptions in Sao Paulo, Brazil's richest state.

Rumo (RAIL3.SA), a leading rail company, told Reuters the protests had lowered the number of trucks at certain of its terminals, while there were some disruptions in sections of the railroad in Morretes, Parana, and in Joinville, Santa Catarina.

Mato Grosso, Brazil's biggest grain producer, was among the most affected by the roadblocks that started after polls closed on Sunday, police data showed, with at least 25 blockades or partial blockades on Tuesday afternoon.

The port authority at Santos, Latin America's biggest port, reiterated in the afternoon that things remained normal as protests had not disrupted its land operations.