Brazil: Pro-Bolsonaro truckers end blockade

 3 hrs agoLikeUS passes bill protecting Arctic reserve from drillingI’ve delivered 6 babies between France and the US. Here are the differences in…a bus driving down a street: The truck drivers' protests had blocked access to the Brazil's Supreme Court headquarters© Provided by dw.com The truck drivers’ protests had blocked access to the Brazil’s Supreme Court headquarters

Truck drivers in Brazil ended their multi-day blockade of federal highways on Thursday, after clogging roads for days in support of President Jair Bolsonaro.

The protests sparked concerns that the far-right president had lost control of some of his most ardent supporters following his inflammatory comments against the country’s top court earlier this week.PauseCurrent Time 0:11/Duration 2:29Loaded: 20.11%Unmute0LQCaptionFull screenBrazil: Pro-Bolsonaro truckers strike, paralyzing roadsClick to expand

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Semi-trucks were still heavily concentrated along roads in 13 of 27 states, but there were “no remaining blockages on the national road network,” Brazil’s Infrastructure Ministry said.

The move comes after Bolsonaro issued a reluctant audio message calling for them to stop.

“Tell our allies the truckers that the blockades are hurting the economy. It causes shortages, inflation — it harms everyone, especially the poor,” he said in a message on Wednesday.

The president also met with several truckers on Thursday in an effort to defuse the situation.

The three-day blockade began on Tuesday during the country’s Independence Day. Bolsonaro held massive rallies where he instigated against perceived political enemies on the Supreme Court and in the country’s election commission.

Brazilian truckers in support of Bolsonaro

While Bolsonaro was eager to avoid a major strike like the one that crippled the Brazilian economy in 2018, he also does not want to alienate a key constituency.

He gained the support of many of the country’s truckers by lending support to their earlier protest. Bolsonaro has long sided with truckers over high fuel prices.

In an audio message that circulated among their group chats Wednesday night, Bolsonaro addressed them directly.

The Associated Press reported that many truckers were weary of believing the audio was genuine, but Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Gomes de Freitas confirmed it was in a follow up video message.

“We know everyone is concerned with improving the country’s situation, everyone is concerned with resolving serious problems, but we can’t try to resolve a problem by creating another, particularly hurting the most vulnerable people,” he said.

Gomes de Freitas added: “That’s the president’s concern. I ask you all to listen attentively, hear the president’s words.”

Bolsonaro poll numbers in decline

Bolsonaro is facing several battles on multiple fronts. He has presided over the world’s second-deadliest outbreak of COVID-19 while grappling with double-digit inflation, persistent unemployment — all of which have contributed to his declining poll numbers.

The truckers have assisted him in showing strength as his approval ratings slide and early polling shows him losing reelection next year.

After his incendiary words on Tuesday’s holiday for Brazilian Independence Day, truckers mobilized in force, even parking among the ministries of the capital, Brasilia, with protests signs that read “Military intervention with Bolsonaro in power,” and “Prison for the corrupt justices of the Supreme Court.”

Not every trucker was wholly supportive of the effort, with some saying their vehicles had been sabotaged by coworkers who are supportive of Bolsonaro.

Bruno Rodrigues, 32, who was carrying auto parts in his truck and said he had been stopped an hour south of Sao Paolo at 4 a.m. by men who tried to smash his windshield with rocks but had succeeded in slashing a tire of his vehicle.

He said he was losing time for deliveries on the road and would have to pay for the tire out of pocket.

“It’s outrageous. If the stoppage had some benefit, OK, but they are hurting their own brothers of the road,” he told Reuters news agency.

rs, ar/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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