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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Brazilian lorry drivers’ strike will end by force, president warns

The strike entered its fifth day on Friday.

Striking lorry drivers protest against rising fuel costs in Duque de Caxias, Brazil (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)
Striking lorry drivers protest against rising fuel costs in Duque de Caxias, Brazil (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press

Thousands of Brazilian lorry drivers have been warned a continuing strike over rising fuel prices will end by force, after drivers blocked roads, leading to school closures and flight cancellations.

President Michel Temer said security forces would clear the roads if necessary.

The strike continued despite a deal reached late on Thursday between the government and several unions that represent drivers.

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Protests along the highway BR-040, in Duque de Caxias, Brazil (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

The parked HGVs have had a domino effect across Brazil this week, as petrol stations received sporadic shipments of fuel and supermarkets struggled to keep shelves stocked.

Public schools and universities in several cities called off classes on Friday, and the international airport in the capital of Brasilia announced that nine flights were cancelled, including an American Airlines flight from Miami.

Brasilia, which is in the middle of the country, has been particularly hard hit because it gets fuel from lorries coming from the coast.

The mayor of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, declared a state of emergency on Friday afternoon. The measure would allow the city to buy fuel from private petrol stations without a bidding process and spend beyond its fiscal budget, according to a statement.

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Lorries parked during a strike in Brasilia (Eraldo Peres/AP)

In a national address, Mr Temer said a “radical faction” of drivers was continuing to strike despite the agreement.

Mr Temer said that security forces would clear the roads with force if need be, but did not provide more details.

“We will not allow hospitals to go without supplies to save lives,” Mr Temer said. “We will not allow children to be impacted by the closing of schools.”

Under the deal reached late on Thursday, lorry drivers would suspend their strike for 15 days to give time to all sides to find a solution.

During that period, the government said it would subsidise fuel prices by lowering several taxes. On Wednesday, state oil company Petrobras also announced a 10% drop in diesel prices for the next two weeks.

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Lorry driver Douglas Ramos rides his horse alongside striking colleagues (Silvia Izquierdo/AP)

For many drivers, however, those moves did not seem to be enough, and it was not clear if they might eventually agree to the terms.

Luiz Antonio, a trucker who was striking outside of Rio de Janeiro on Friday, said he did not trust what had been negotiated in Brasilia.

“They made a deal, there was a lot lot of blah blah blah, and then after we clear the roads they won’t follow through,” he said.

The strike comes as Latin America’s largest economy struggles to fully recover from its worst recession in decades. Unemployment has yet to decline, and the Brazilian real has dropped sharply against the US dollar over the last few months.

Press Association

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