Brazil truck strike continues despite deal

Nationwide strike over soaring fuel prices enters ninth day, despite government concessions.

A nationwide truckers’ strike in Brazil over soaring fuel prices that has crippled the Brazilian economy has entered a ninth day. 

Brazil‘s government said it reached an agreement with the main truck drivers’ union late on Sunday, but a significant number of drivers continued to protest early on Tuesday.

Brazilian President Michel Temer caved into the striker’s main demand and agreed to cut the diesel price by 0.46 reais ($0.12) per litre  – a 10 percent reduction – for 60 days. 

The truckers are angry over the rise in diesel costs from 3.36 reais ($0.92) a litre in January to 3.6 reais ($0.96) before the strike. On May 26, it hit 3.8 reais ($1.02) per liter.

“Throughout this week, my government has always been open to dialogue,” said Temer on Twitter. “We have done our part to alleviate problems and sufferings.”

Protesting drivers have been blocking roads across the country, with many gas stations running out of fuel and some food items in short supply.  

People attend a protest in support of the truck drivers' strike in Canoas [Diego Vara/Reuters]
People attend a protest in support of the truck drivers’ strike in Canoas [Diego Vara/Reuters]

More than 550 road blockages by truckers were mounted across 24 of the country’s 27 states, the federal highway police said.

Shortages of aviation fuel shuttered eight airports. Traffic to the huge Santos seaport near Sao Paulo, which usually receives 10,000 trucks a day, was almost nonexistent. 

Hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo had to cancel non-urgent surgeries and at least 13 states reported scrapping university classes.

‘More than a strike’

“What’s taken many by surprise is just how quickly a country as well developed as Brazil – the seventh largest economy in the world – can be brought to its knees,” said Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler reporting from Sao Paulo.

But for many of the protesters, the strike is not just about the rising fuel prices.

“This used to be a strike,” Maximilio Viana, a protesting truck driver said. “Now it’s more than a strike.”

“Brazil has realised that we can’t keep going with these politicians who over the years we have seen involved in corruption, bribery and scandals.”

Since taking office in August 2016, Temer has been dogged by a series of corruption charges

The Brazilian leader survived a key lower house of Congress vote in October last year to avoid facing trial.

Brazil is already suffering from the aftermath of a deep recession and political instability ahead of general elections in October.

“We are not only here for the truck drivers, but for all Brazilians who are suffering with the rises in electricity, water, gas, everything,” Evaldeir Andrade, truck driver, told Al Jazeera.

“Brazilians have to work just to survive,” he added. “We are not members of any political party, we are the people who are suffering most.”