Brazil Working Around Strike But Fuel, Food Is Still Scarce

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s crippling nationwide truckers strike is into its sixth day, but road blockages are starting to wind down after the government deployed armed forces to break up hundreds of blockades and a key drivers’ association asked its members to back down.

Some fuel and food has started to be delivered, though is still unclear when operations will return to normal, Institutional Security Minister Sergio Etchegoyen told reporters in Brasilia, the capital, late Saturday.

Half the blockades had been removed, but drivers who are not blocking roads are still stopped, Defense Minister Raul Jungmann Brazil said. Sao Paulo Governor Marcio Franca, who is negotiating with truckers, announced on Saturday an accord to remove blockades in the state until May 29.

Local media reports have shown fuel cargoes arriving with police escorts at gas stations in some municipalities in northeastern Brazil. Fuel and other supplies have also started to flow to high-priority services, including public transportation and hospitals.

The government is still concerned about health services. Inventories of critical medicines have been depleted, and chemicals to treat water for human consumption are also short, Government Secretariat Minister Carlos Marun told reporters earlier on Saturday.

“Despite chicken deaths, President Temer is more concerned on human lives,” Marun said, adding that the government could fine truckers who continue to withhold supplies from hospitals.

Read more: Trucker Turmoil Lays Bare Brazil’s Distrust of Pro-Market Agenda

The government is fining transport companies and drivers that still block roads, and is investigating the participation of cargo transport companies in the self-employed drivers strike, which is prohibited by Brazilian law.

“The federal police have already requested the arrest of some businessmen,” Marun said.

Truckers angry about the high price of diesel fuel continue to line up on the side of the roads, while airlines are still canceling flights amid a lack of fuel at some airports, including in Brasilia. Fuel shortages are now being eased at airports in Sao Paulo, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro states, Marun said.

In Mato Grosso state, the nation’s largest soybean producer, the number of blockades remain unchanged from the past few days, with roads obstructed at about 30 points. Exporters have started to declare force majeure on soybean cargoes.

Blockades continue even after Abcam, Brazil’s main truckers’ association, recommended that its members free highways, and instead continue peaceful protests because of concern that the use of the armed forces would harm drivers.

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