Sao Paulo, Brazil – Truck drivers continue to protest nationwide with services such as fueling at petrol stations halted and the delivery of crucial goods screeching to a halt.
What began as a strike last week over rising fuel prices has now turned to other long-standing complaints about poor public services, high living costs, and political corruption.
“We are fighting for everything. The price of fuel is the main thing, but we need better roads, better healthcare, better public security,” Cicero Aparecido da Silva, 47, a Sao Paulo trucker, told Al Jazeera.
The demonstrations led to serious fuel shortages and scarcity of fresh produce and medicines, and caused public transport reductions in Brazilian cities along with airports shutting down.
Key sectors of the Brazilian economy – such as livestock, agriculture and industry – have been strangled, threatening the country’s already fragile economic recovery after gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by more than seven percent since 2015.
Unemployment remains near record high at 12.9 percent, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics.
Calling in the troops?
President Michel Temer has conceded to the demands of the protesting truck drivers twice already and said he would put the country’s armed forces into action to assist with removing trucks blocking highways.
Most recently, he announced on Monday he would reduce the price of diesel by 46 Brazilian cents (13 US cents) per litre for 60 days.
But for many, the concessions are not enough. Brazil’s Federal Highway Police counted 616 truck driver protest points across the country on Tuesday evening, though with just a few remaining blockades, according to the G1 news site.
Al Jazeera visited one of the protests at a petrol station on the Regis Bittencourt highway with parked trucks lining both sides of the road.
Many protesters called for the removal of Temer, whose approval rating hovers at about five percent, according to the latest polls.
“This is also about overthrowing the Temer government, which everyone wants,” Alexandre Molina, 39, from Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul state, told Al Jazeera. Molina had been at the gas station protest since last Wednesday.
Like the majority of demonstrators, he also expressed sympathy for “military intervention” to deal with the crisis.
“We need to get the military in to take out all of the corrupt politicians,” Molina said.
From 1964-1985, Brazil was governed by a military dictatorship, during which time thousands of people considered political subversives were tortured, killed or disappeared.
A recently uncovered CIA memo showed for the first time in 1974 that then-President General Ernesto Geisel knew of and approved political assassinations.
In recent years, however, a glut of high profile corruption scandals, rising violence, and a tanking economy has seen support for democracy’s fall, according to opinion polls.
In October, Brazil will hold general elections that promise to be the most unpredictable in years.
Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva, the wildly popular former president and current frontrunner, was recently jailed for 12 years on corruption charges, making it unlikely he will run.
Polling second is hardline right-winger and former army captain Jair Bolsonaro, himself an avid supporter of Brazil’s military dictatorship.
Source: Al Jazeera