Will Bolsonaro’s statement calm his supporters on the roadblocks?

CAIO GUATELLI / AFP A long line of trucks are seen during a blockade held by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro on Castelo Branco highway, on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on November 1, 2022. – Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blocked major highways for a second day as tensions mounted over his silence after narrowly losing re-election to bitter rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Federal Highway Police (PRF) on Tuesday reported more than 250 total or partial road blockages in at least 23 states by Bolsonaro supporters, while local media said protests outside the country’s main international airport in Sao Paulo delayed passengers and led to several flights being cancelled. (Photo by CAIO GUATELLI / AFP)

CAIO GUATELLI / AFP

A long line of trucks during a blockade held by supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro on the Castelo Branco highway on the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil, November 1, 2022.

BRAZIL – Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro finally broke his silence on Tuesday, November 1, two days after his defeat against Lula.

“As long as I am President of the Republic, I will continue to respect the Constitution”, declared the Head of State in a martial tone. He spoke in a two-minute speech at the Alvorada presidential palace in Brasilia, without ever explicitly acknowledging his defeat.

“The president authorized me, according to the law, to begin the transition process” with the team of President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, said his chief of staff Ciro Nogueira.

Jair Bolsonaro, 67, also condemned half-words the roadblocks erected by his supporters protesting the victory since Sunday.

“Peaceful demonstrations will always be welcome, but we cannot use the methods of the left, (…) which prevent freedom of movement”he added.

However, he claimed that these demonstrations were “the fruit of outrage and a sense of injustice regarding the way the electoral process was conducted”.

During the long two-day silence of the Head of Statethe protest movement on the highways spread, and calls to support them had multiplied on pro-Bolsonaro accounts on Twitter and Telegram.

The Federal Road Police (PRF) reported 267 roadblocks, total or partial, as of midday on Tuesday, in at least 22 of Brazil’s 27 states. According to the head of the PRF, Marco Antonio Territo de Barros, “some 200 roadblocks have already been lifted”.

In São Paulo, a call to “the largest mobilization in history”

On Monday evening, a Supreme Court judge ordered the “immediate unblocking of roads and public roads” and asked the Federal Highway Police (PRF) to take “all necessary measures”.

In several regions of the country, the police used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse the demonstrators, such as in Novo Hamburgo, near Porto Alegre.

It is in the south of the country, such as in the state of Santa Carina where Jair Bolsonaro won nearly 70% of the votes, that the most numerous roadblocks are recorded.

On one of them in Palhoça, the situation is tense and the PRF is negotiating with the demonstrators so that they lift their blockage smoothly, noted an AFP journalist.

The highway leading to São Paulo’s Guarulhos International Airport, the largest in the country, was reopened to traffic during the day after police intervened. Its early morning blockage caused some flights to be delayed or canceled, according to local media.

A convoy of trucks carrying equipment from the F1 Ferrari team was even temporarily blocked by a roadblock at the exit of Viracopos airport, near Campinas, in the state of São Paulo, two weeks before Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was not possible this Tuesday evening to estimate the impact of Jair Bolsonaro’s statements on the continuation of the roadblock movement. However, many messages circulated in the evening on social networks calling for demonstrations on Wednesday, a public holiday in Brazil.

In São Paulo, it was thus a call that circulated to “the largest mobilization in history” Wednesday on Paulista Avenue, invaded Sunday evening by hundreds of thousands of cheering supporters of Lula.

Road transport is essential in Brazil, a country of continental dimensions with few railways. In 2018, a ten-day strike by truckers led to serious supply problems.

Several leaders of this movement have dissociated themselves from the Bolsonarist truckers.

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Will Bolsonaro’s statement calm his supporters on the roadblocks?