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Brazil struggles as truck driver protest halts food and fuel deliveries

Truck drivers block Brazil's highways in fuel price protest
Truck drivers block Brazil's highways in fuel price protest Copyright Reuters
Copyright Reuters
By Daniel Bellamy with Reuters
Published on Updated
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State of emergency declared in Rio de Janeiro and megacity Sao Paulo.


A truckers protest over diesel prices that has crippled key sectors of Latin America's biggest economy entered its sixth day on Saturday, putting drivers in a standoff with Brazilian President Michel Temer who authorized military force to clear highways.

South America's largest city and economic hub Sao Paulo decreed a state of emergency, as did Rio de Janeiro.

Petrol stations and airports across the nation ran out of fuel, supermarket shelves went bare and hospitals said they were running out of supplies. Public transport and rubbish collection was reduced or halted across the country, and many schools cancelled classes as teachers could not get to work.

Lack of feed supplies may cause one billion birds and 20 million hogs to die, Brazilian meat group ABPA said.

"Those blocking the highways and acting in a radical manner are hurting the population," Temer said in a televised address.

"We will not allow hospitals to run out of supplies to save lives. We will not allow children to be harmed by the closure of schools."

Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann said at a Friday night news conference that there were over 500 blockades on roadways across Brazil, but that was half of those registered 24 hours before.

Brazil's oil regulator ANP said once roads are completely cleared, it would still take a week to normalize fuel supplies nationwide.

In response to the threat of military action, Abcam, a Brazilian truckers association that says it represents 600,000 drivers, called on them to no longer block roads.

However, it encouraged drivers to keep protesting and not deliver goods, meaning it was likely the situation would remain critical.

Negotiators for several trucker groups agreed late on Thursday to suspend their blockages for 15 days after the government vowed to subsidize and stabilize diesel prices.

To win over truckers the government promised to extend for 30 days a 10-percent diesel price cut announced by state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

But the Abcam trucking association that ignited the strike was not among the parties that signed the accord and insisted on Friday it would not do so until Congress puts diesel tax cuts into law, which would take several days at the quickest.

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