Truck drivers blocked highways across Brazil Thursday in support of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has sought to fire up his far-right base as he fights sinking poll numbers and a supposedly hostile political establishment.
The truckers launched their protest Tuesday on Brazilian Independence Day, when Bolsonaro held massive demonstrations to rally his base against what he calls attacks by the Supreme Court and electoral authorities.
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The drivers continued blocking major roads in at least 15 of Brazil’s 27 states even though Bolsonaro himself called on 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 sent to supporters Wednesday night.
The infrastructure ministry said there were 10 percent fewer blockades early Thursday, but it was not immediately clear whether the holdouts would comply with Bolsonaro’s request.
In 2018, Brazil was paralyzed for days by a massive truckers’ strike against high fuel prices.
The current blockades are not endorsed by truckers’ unions. But they span much of the country, including Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and, according to media reports, key industrial hub Sao Paulo.
In Brasilia, dozens of drivers parked their trucks in the middle of the Esplanade of Ministries, at the heart of the capital, and refused to leave even when the police tried to remove them Wednesday night.
They displayed protest signs calling for a “military intervention with Bolsonaro in power” and “prison for the corrupt justices of the Supreme Court.”
Bolsonaro has repeatedly hit out at the high court, which has ordered investigations of him and his inner circle, notably over accusations of systematically spreading fake news from within the government.