A day after the coup acts promoted by President Jair Bolsonaro, truck drivers from various parts of the country blocked federal highways in acts in favor of the president and against the Supreme Court (STF). According to the Federal Highway Police (PRF) and the Ministry of Infrastructure, there were more than 110 roadblocks or outbreaks of protest in 12 states across the country this Wednesday night. The bodies are negotiating with protesters to release the flow this Thursday. Pocketnarist leaders lead the movement, but it is not yet clear whether it is mostly self-employed or led by transport companies. “Everyone is united, agribusiness, autonomous truck drivers, transport companies… The Brazilian people are disgusted with the actions of the STF. Soon the whole of Brazil will stop”, assured EL PAÍS Ailton Gomes, representative of the Association of Transporters of Fuels and Derivatives (Associtanque) of Rio de Janeiro.
Support our journalism. Subscribe to EL PAÍS by clicking here
The main states with blockades are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Bahia, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Maranhão. The movement sparks the fear that Brazil will revive a strike that will paralyze the entire national territory, as it took place over 10 days in May 2018. At the time, truck drivers and businessmen protested because of the high fuel prices, with the support of the then presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.
Leaders in Brasilia wanted to deliver this Wednesday a document to the president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG), asking for the impeachment of ministers of the Supreme. “The Brazilian people can no longer stand this moment the country is going through, through the imposing way in which the STF has been positioning itself,” said Francisco Burgardt, also known as Chicão Caminhoneiro, who chairs the Brazilian Union of Truck Drivers (UBC), in video that circulates on the internet. “The Brazilian people are here looking for a solution and we are only going to leave here with a solution in hand”.
Another video that circulates on WhatsApp shows truck driver Marcos Antônio Pereira Gomes, known as “Zé Trovão”, asking for the closing of all Brazilian highways from 6 am this Thursday, 9th of September. “Close everything, nothing else passes. Only ambulance, oxygen and medicine. It’s over, nothing happens anymore”, he said. The target of investigations against leaders who threaten democracy, he has been on the run since September 3, after minister Alexandre de Moraes ordered his arrest at the request of the Attorney General’s Office (PGR). “They are playing with democracy. We need to solve Brazil’s problems now, this week. The time has come for us to change everything at once. It’s to lock everything,” he said in the video.
The movement does not seem to be unanimous among truck drivers, and there are strong indications that companies and transport and agribusiness are behind the stoppage. If this is confirmed, the acts could be understood as lockout — that is, a stoppage promoted by employers, something prohibited by article 17 of law 7,783. According to the newspaper The globe, businessman José Fava Neto, director of Aprosoja in Goiás —which brings together producers from the Midwest— and partner at Agrofava —seed import and export giant— is also the owner of a company that took trucks to the Esplanada dos Ministérios. In addition, Aprosoja-MT and Aprosoja Brasil had their accounts blocked three days before September 7th by Moraes’ determination to avoid financial support for the acts. The organization finances the Brasil Verde-Amarelo group — its stickers could be seen on Brasilia’s trucks.
Also on Wednesday, Deputy Nereu Crispim (PSL-RS), president of the Parliamentary Front of Truck Drivers and Collectors, sent an official letter to the director general of the Federal Highway Police (DGPRF) to ensure the safety of truck drivers who are being attacked in highways, according to UOL columnist Chico Alves. In the document, he cited “traffic obstructions on federal roads with wood, stones and tires as well as threats to physical integrity and damage to property, with throwing stones” and asked for help from security forces to “comply and enforce legislation Brazilian law, guarantee the freedom of truck drivers, contain and avoid complications of the type and its evolution”. According to the congressman, there are people inside, linked to agribusiness companies, posing as truck drivers. EL PAÍS tried unsuccessfully to contact the parliamentarian.
Earlier, the Metrópoles portal released a video in which a truck driver had his vehicle vandalized for refusing to participate in the act. The president of the Autonomous Cargo Transporters Union of Goiás (Sinditac), Vantuir Rodrigues, assured the portal that the movement is not headed by the category. “This demonstration is not for truck drivers, this demonstration is for agribusiness, which is using the name of truck drivers,” he guaranteed.
The Union of Cargo Transport Companies of Campinas and Region (SINDICAMP) released a statement repudiating the movement. “We understand that the blockade on the highways could cause serious inconvenience to the transport activity carried out by the companies, in addition to directly reaching the end consumer and the delivery of essential products for the population, such as food, medicine, fuel, etc,” stated the entity. The union also says that the strike “directly affects the political and economic environments, bringing several negative impacts to our sector and society as a whole.”
Ailton Gomes, from Associtanque, recognizes that the stoppage will bring losses to truck drivers, especially the self-employed, who count on the gains from each front to maintain themselves. “However, the people can’t stand 11 more ministers deciding what Brazil is going to do or not do. The people could not stand it and are at war, right. Let’s see the next events”, he says, echoing the speech of the President of the Republic.
Support news production like this. Subscribe to EL PAÍS for 30 days for 1 US$
sign up on here to receive EL PAÍS Brasil’s daily newsletter: reports, analyses, exclusive interviews and the main information of the day in your e-mail, from Monday to Friday. sign up also to receive our weekly newsletter on Saturdays, with highlights of coverage for the week.