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A woman stands in front of a truck parked on BR 040 highway during a protest against rising fuel prices in Luziania, Brazil.
Just as Brazil’s recovery appeared to be taking hold, the country got bogged down. A 10-day strike by truckers over fuel pricing caused a crippling nationwide shutdown and was resolved only when President Michel Temer’s administration gave in to numerous demands, from cheaper fuel to a change in the leadership of the state-run oil company Petrobras. The cost: billions of reais in taxpayer money and a weakened government with a tarnished reputation for fiscal rigor.
It underscored how weak and unpopular the government is. Before Temer, the Brazilian government would intervene to cap the cost of fuel, hurting profits at Petrobras. Under Temer’s watch, Petrobras let the market dictate fuel prices, which helped the company but hurt Brazilian motorists when they filled their tanks. That’s what prompted truckers to block Brazil’s highways in protest. Temer’s responses -- slashing the cost of diesel and forcing out the widely respected Pedro Parente from Petrobras -- revealed a willingness to jettison fiscal discipline in return for political survival. A significant and vocal minority exploited the turmoil to call for military rule.