© Reuters. Supporters of Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro react near tear gas canisters as they take part in a protest over Bolsonaro’s defeat in the presidential run-off election, at Castelo Branco highway in Barueri, Brazil November 2, 2022. REUTERS/Amanda Perobe
By Gabriel Araujo
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Protests on Brazil’s highways began to fizzle out on Thursday after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro asked his supporters to clear the blockades they had mounted with lines of trucks after his defeat in the presidential election.
The roadblocks lost steam as the official transition was about to get under way with the first formal meetings between government officials and the team of leftist President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will take office on Jan. 1.
Protesters were blocking highways partially or fully in 76 locations in eight of the country’s 26 states as of Thursday morning, down from 126 previously, according to Brazil’s Federal Highway Police (PRF).
The protests erupted on Sunday after Bolsonaro narrowly lost the second-round runoff to Lula and were staged mainly by truckers, one of the president’s key constituencies.
Bolsonaro late on Wednesday urged his supporters to end the blockades, saying in a video on social media that the demonstrations were legitimate but the roadblocks were restricting people’s right to come and go and hurting the economy.
“Everyone is suffering from the closed roads. I ask you to clear the roads and protest elsewhere,” Bolsonaro said.
Access to the port of Paranagua, one of the most important for Brazil’s grain exports, was no longer blocked on Thursday morning, authorities said.
On Wednesday, Bolsonaro’s supporters also gathered outside army barracks in several cities to call for an armed forces intervention to prevent former President Lula from returning to office.
Their far-right leader has avoided conceding defeat but authorized his chief of staff Ciro Nogueira to begin the transition process with representatives of the Lula camp.
The first formal meetings are set to take place later on Thursday. Lula has tapped Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin to coordinate the transition process, and Alckmin is scheduled to meet Nogueira at 2 p.m (0500 GMT) in Brasilia.
Separately, Alckmin will also meet with the head of Brazil’s federal audit court Bruno Dantas and Senator Marcelo Castro, who is responsible for the 2023 budget bill in the upper house of Congress.