Truckers Threaten to Clog Brazil Highways as Strike Starts

  • Drivers have disrupted roads in nine of country's 26 states
  • Government says protest is designed to harm Rousseff

Brazilian truck drivers have started a strike over fuel and freight prices that threatens to clog highways and lead to shortages of basic goods. The government says the protests are a reckless attempt to destabilize President Dilma Rousseff’s administration.

Truck drivers have staged demonstrations in 11 of Brazil’s 26 states, disrupting traffic in nine of them, the highway police press office said in a report Monday afternoon. They are demanding lower diesel prices, a minimum payment for freight and subsidized credit for independent transporters, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported.

The strike comes amid a political and economic crisis in Brazil. Fallout from a massive corruption investigation involving Rousseff’s Workers’ Party has coincided with what is expected to be Brazil’s longest recession since the 1930s. Yet the president has made some progress in easing tensions in Congress, and last month managed to tone down calls for her impeachment by giving allies more power in her Cabinet.

Some of the truckers are trying to rekindle pressure to oust Rousseff, with demonstrators brandishing hand-made signs calling for her to leave office, according to photos published Monday on the Facebook page of the National Transport Command. Known as the CNT, the group is organizing the protests and isn’t a formal labor union.

Surging Inflation

Rousseff should resign because she mismanaged the economy and allowed inflation to surge, said Ivar Luiz Schmidt, one of the protest organizers. The strike will continue for the foreseeable future or until the speaker of the house opens impeachment proceedings against the president, he said by telephone.

The government says the protesters don’t speak for all truckers. An official truckers’ union with ties to the Workers’ Party said in a statement the CNT is connected to opposition politicians and doesn’t represent all drivers.

“A strike whose only objective is to cause political harm to the government goes against the interests of the Brazilian people,” Communications Minister Edinho Silva said Monday.

The CNT is the the same group that held up roads during a separate protest in February over diesel prices, the cost of credit and regulations on working hours. The stoppage lasted about two weeks and caused companies such as food processor BRF SA and meat supplier JBS SA to reduce output.

BRF and JBS declined 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent respectively on Monday, beating the nation’s benchmark index that fell 1.5 percent.

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