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3 Nov, 2022 04:00

Bolsonaro urges protesters to clear roadblocks

Chaotic demonstrations erupted across Brazil after the president’s election loss
Bolsonaro urges protesters to clear roadblocks

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has asked his supporters to stop blocking major roadways to protest his defeat in last week’s election, saying such actions are not “legitimate demonstrations.”

In a video message shared on social media on Wednesday night, Bolsonaro pleaded with protesters to find other outlets for their anger after his loss to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in a runoff vote over the weekend, suggesting that truck drivers and others blocking roads are discrediting their own cause.

“I know you are upset... Me too. But we have to keep our heads straight,” he said. “I will make an appeal to you: clear the highways.”

Bolsonaro added that Brazil’s Federal Highway Police (PRF) were facing “enormous” difficulties in trying to clear away the demonstrators, as they have been outnumbered in many locations. According to the PRF, roadblocks remain at 126 different sites across Brazil, though the agency said that number had dropped since Tuesday night.

Police also say they have cleared more than 700 separate blockades in total, but noted that roads continue to be obstructed in 14 of the country’s 26 states. The clogged highways have meant disruptions in the distribution of fuel, food, and other key goods, especially as many long-haul truckers have taken part in the protests.

National health agency Anvisa has warned of potential shortages in medical supplies due to the roadblocks, while Brazil’s oil regulator has relaxed certain storage requirements in preparation for scarcities.

The outgoing leader went on to say that “the closing of highways in Brazil harms people's right to come and go,” arguing that it is “not part of legitimate demonstrations.” He added to his followers: “Protest otherwise, in other places. This is very welcome, it's part of our democracy.”

On Tuesday, Bolsonaro broke days of silence following his loss at the polls, stating that the protests were the result of “indignation and a sense of injustice” over the election, though did not urge his backers to stop at the time. He has yet to publicly acknowledge defeat, but has nonetheless authorized the transition of power.