Brazil truckers block highways after Bolsonaro loses to Lula in election

Truckers – who have benefited from Mr Bolsonaro policies such as lowering diesel costs – are one of the president's key constituencies

Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro, mainly truck drivers, block the BR-101 highway in Palhoca, Brazil. AFP
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Truckers who support Brazil's outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro escalated their protests on Monday, blocking roads in 20 states in an action that could affect agricultural exports in one of the world's top food producers and cause wider economic chaos.

Mr Bolsonaro lost Sunday's election to leftist former president Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, but has yet to concede defeat.

Video footage showed some truckers at roadblocks calling for a military takeover to prevent Mr da Silva, popularly known as Lula, from becoming president, as protests spread from Mato Grosso and Santa Catarina to Parana, Sao Paulo, Minas Gerais, Goias and Bahia.

In Brasilia, police shut off traffic access to the central government esplanade on a tip that Mr Bolsonaro supporters were planning to occupy the square in front of the Supreme Court, which they consider has acted to favour Mr da Silva.

Brazil's federal highway police said 236 protests had partially or fully blocked roads in 20 states. Truckers – who have benefited from Mr Bolsonaro's policies such as lowering diesel costs — are one of the president's key constituencies, and they have been known to disrupt Brazil's economy when they shut down highways.

The highest number of blockades was in Santa Catarina, a state where Mr Bolsonaro has a massive support base, and Mato Grosso do Sul, an important grains-growing and cattle state, according to the highway police national branch.

Santos port, from where much of Brazil's grains are exported, told Reuters on Monday that the protests had not yet affected cargo movement. Paranagua's port authority said one of the main roads giving access to its port was being blocked by protesters, but that there was no immediate disruption to cargo movement.

However, Normando Corral, president of the farm group Famato, said the roadblocks in Mato Grosso, Brazil's biggest farm state, could disrupt agricultural shipments if they persist.

One of the state's main exports this time of year is Brazil's winter corn crop, which is planted after soybeans are harvested.

"It's too soon to say if it's going to interfere with the flow of production because the blockades started yesterday," Mr Corral said. "I don't know how long it will last."

Rota do Oeste, a toll road operator that administers an 850km (530-mile) stretch of the BR 163 highway that cuts through Mato Grosso said at around 2.30pm local time there were blockages in the regions of Nova Mutum, Sorriso, Sinop, Lucas do Rio Verde and Rondonopolis.

Evandro Lermen, a member of grain co-operative Coacen in the Brazilian 'soy capital' Sorriso, told Reuters corn shipments were not being disrupted by the protests.

He said trucks had not been not loaded with corn over the weekend because of a November 2 national holiday.

"We are not worried," he said, adding that shipping schedules showed no delays.

Rumo, a leading rail company that operates Latin America's biggest grain terminal in Rondonopolis, said none of its operations in Brazil had been affected so far.

Updated: November 01, 2022, 2:07 PM
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