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Brazil truckers block roads, Bolsonaro asks protesters to stand down

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The photo shows truck drivers during the September 7protests. (Photo by The Brazilian Report new agency(TBR))

Brazilian truckers have held demonstrations across Brazil and blocked multiple federal roadways in several states, prompting President Jair Bolsonaro to ask the protesters to stand down.

By late morning, 53 blockades on federal highways in 16 states, mostly in Santa Catarina, Paraná and Espírito Santo were reported, according to a statement from Infrastructure Ministry based on federal highway police reports.

Highway authorities added that the protests were not coordinated by the truck drivers’ union and are unrelated to the sector’s demands. Most blockade attempts came in the southern state of Santa Catarina, known as being a trustworthy source of support for President Bolsonaro.

Despite claims on social media such as Facebook and Telegram that Brazil would be brought to a “standstill,” none of the blockages were able to completely halt traffic and impede cars and trucks from passing.

Brazilian grains exporters association ANEC, which represents global merchants such as Cargill and Bunge; Abrafrigo, which represents meat companies such as Marfrig; and The Brazilian Institute of Petroleum and Gas (IBP) all in separate statements have declared that blockades had not disrupted their job.

Truckers have previously demonstrated this year over high fuel prices. Wednesday roadblocks came after supporters of Bolsonaro shared posts in WhatsApp and Telegram messaging groups, calling for a coordinated effort by truckers to block multiple federal roadways and call for the president to “intervene in the Supreme Court.”

Brazilian president called on his supporters and representatives of different jobs such as truckers to gather in major cities on Tuesday, Brazil’s Independence Day, to step up his attacks on Brazil's Supreme Court and voting system.

“Only God will take me out of Brasilia,” he told a crowd of his supporters. The September 7 marches fit with Bolsonaro’s attempts to hold power. Amid growing scandals, rising inflation, high unemployment and one of the world’s worst COVID-19 death tolls, Bolsonaro’s approval ratings have sunk to record lows.

In 2018, truck drivers around the country switched off their engines for 11 days. The protesters demanded a decrease of the price of diesel, exemption from certain tolls, as well as a legal and tax reform related to truck driving. Roadways were blocked and several regions suffered fuel and food shortages.

Over 60% of all cargo in Brazil is transported by trucks, and road blockades have a massive impact on the nation’s economy.

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