Hundreds of truckers and their supporters had gathered at a gas station on a highway near São Paulo for a rally in support of a nationwide protest that has brought South America’s biggest economy to its knees.
But among the slogans and Brazilian flags were signs not usually seen at strike demonstrations: slung from a nearby overpass were banners calling for “military intervention”, a sign that this shutdown has taken on a political dimension all of its own.
As a nationwide truck strike reaches its 10th day, gas stations have finally begun to receive fuel deliveries and truckers have started drifting back to work – some unwillingly.
But hundreds of demonstrations have continued on highways across Brazil – and many of those still protesting are calling for a return to the military dictatorship that ran Brazil for two sombre decades until 1985.
“We need help from the military to resolve our problems in Brasília, to remove the bandits from there and to put the house in order,” said one driver, Gabriel Berestov, 44.
What began as a nationwide truck strike over rising fuel prices has spiralled into a broader protest over a range of issues including Brazil’s healthcare, education, roads, increasing violence and political corruption. .
The strike has wrongfooted the left and right in Brazil’s fiercely polarised political climate. President Michel Temer’s conservative government has floundered as the shutdown suffocated the Brazilian economy, forcing harvests to stop and factories to suspend or reduce production, while wiping 15% off the share price of the state-run oil company Petrobras – responsible for fuel distribution and prices here – on Monday.
But what has disturbed many Brazilians is that some protesters have called for Temer to be removed from power by the armed forces, Bloomberg reports.
José Lopes, leader of the Brazilian Truck Drivers’ Association, warned on Monday that the strike movement had been hijacked. “There is a very strong group of interventionists,” he told reporters. “They are people who want to bring down the government.”
The subject ricocheted around Brazil. On Tuesday, Temer told foreign journalists he saw “zero risk” of a military intervention. His minister of institutional security, Gen Sergio Etchegoyen, said the armed forces had no intention of intervening and that the idea was a “subject from the last century”.
The theme is deeply controversial in Brazil, which lived under a military dictatorship for 21 years, during which hundreds of regime opponents were executed and thousands more tortured.
“It’s an idea from the last century, it’s a question which I personally think makes no sense,” said Etchegoyen, the cabinet minister for institutional security. “But there are still some people who think this alternative is possible.”
What started as a fringe movement during the protests to impeach President Dilma Rousseff is now gathering steam, fueled by a political and economic crisis. Supporters of the military feel increasingly emboldened as a weak, unpopular president becomes increasingly dependent on the armed forces to tackle the country’s problems. Meanwhile former Army Captain Jair Bolsonaro, who denies Brazil’s 1964-85 military rule was a dictatorship, gained support for his presidential bid.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 30th, 2018