RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian truckers supportive of President Jair Bolsonaro blocked hundreds of roads early Tuesday to protest his election loss to former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Since the leftist da Silva’s’s victory Sunday night, many truck drivers have jammed traffic in areas across the country and said they won’t acknowledge Bolsonaro’s defeat. Bolsonaro hasn’t spoken publicly since official results were released roughly 36 hours ago, nor phoned da Silva to concede.
The highway to and from the international airport in Sao Paulo – Brazil’s most populous state and largest economy – was blocked and dozens of flights were canceled. Videos on social media showed travelers rolling their suitcases at night along the highway to the airport. Access was partially reestablished as of 8 a.m. local time.
In neighboring Minas Gerais, a key battleground state in the election, a video on social media showed a protester telling a reporter from O Tempo: “We won’t stop as long as we don’t have a response from our president.”
The man, wearing a green-and-yellow shirt – the colors of the Brazilian flag and of the nation’s conservative movement – claimed the election was “fraudulent” and warned of future protests.
“We want Bolsonaro in 2023 and for the years to come,” he said.
In 2018, an 11-day trucker strike brought Brazil to a halt, caused food prices to spike, and left supermarket shelves without products as gas stations ran out of fuel. It caused billions in losses and revealed the vast power that truckers possess, particularly when they organize through social media platforms.
Bolsonaro, a lawmaker at the time and months away from winning that year’s presidential election, was an outspoken supporter of the truckers, who became a constituency of his. This year, his administration limited interstate fuel taxes to help bring down prices and launched a financial aid program for truckers just ahead of the presidential election campaign.
A majority of Brazilian Supreme Court justices early Tuesday voted to order the federal highway police to clear the blocked roads immediately. The vote was still taking place as of 9 a.m. local time, with partial results posted on the court’s website.
As of 8 a.m. local time Tuesday, highway police had removed nearly 200 blockades, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Federal public prosecutors in Sao Paulo and Goias states said they had opened investigations into the blockades.
Da Silva’s Workers’ Party has accused Bolsonaro’s campaign of deploying the police force to create traffic jams and deter people from voting on election day, when videos of officials stopping buses shot across social media.
The party said the alleged efforts were particularly focused in the northeast region that is a Workers’ Party stronghold.
Alexandre de Moraes, who presides over the the nation’s electoral authority, said police check points merely delayed voters from reaching polls. He ordered the immediate suspension of all highway police operations.
Bolsonaro lost the race by a thin margin, garnering 49.1% of the vote to da Silva’s 50.9%. It was the tightest presidential race since Brazil’s return to democracy over three decades ago.
Much like former U.S. President Donald Trump, whom Bolsonaro openly admires, the far-right incumbent repeatedly questioned the reliability of the country’s electoral system, claiming electronic voting machines are prone to fraud. He never provided any proof, even when ordered to do so by the electoral court.
Dozens of journalists from both national and international media remained camped outside the presidential residence in the capital, Brasilia, awaiting any sign that Bolsonaro might speak about the election or the highway blockades.