SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A truck drivers' protest over Brazil's fuel prices affecting supplies of fuel, food and medicines continued on the sixth day on Saturday, even though President Michel Temer had instructed the military the day before to clear the blocked roads.
Large cities are in a state of emergency as service stations and airports ran out of fuel, supermarkets shelves were empty and hospitals said they had run out of supplies. Public transport and garbage collection have been reduced or stopped throughout the country, and prices for some food have skyrocketed.
The government said there would be fewer blockades on highways across the country on Saturday compared to Friday. However, the main truckers' representative, ABCAM, said they had not changed their main argument that they would withdraw protests only if federal taxes were scrapped via diesel.
Later on Saturday, the federal troops and the police seemed to have a head start clearing some roads. They accompanied convoys of fuel and other products in some areas of the country, including the airport in the capital Brasilia.
The negotiators of several trucker groups on Thursday agreed on protests when the government pledged to subsidize and stabilize diesel prices, which could cost 5 billion reais ($ 1.4 billion) this year.
But truck drivers say they want a definitive solution, that they will only end the protest if a decision to eliminate federal diesel taxes is published in the official Gazette.
Local television showed overnight footage of federal troops deployed in some critical areas to help police remove trucks from highways. There were no reports of violence, but main roads were blocked in the morning.
Some industries that depend on daily needs suffer from it.
Lack of animal feeding can result in the deaths of one billion birds and 20 million pigs, Brazilian meat group ABPA said, adding that more than 150 poultry and pork processing plants have stopped producing indefinitely.
Brazil's sugar industry, the largest in the world, is slowing down the sugarcane harvest as the machines run out of fuel.
Blockades continue to prevent trucks from entering Latin America's largest port, Santos. The oilseed crusher group, Abiove, said soybean exports would continue on Saturday if truckers refused to allow access to major ports.
Car production, which accounts for about a quarter of Brazilian industrial production, came to a standstill on Friday.
The authorities said that even if the roads were completely cleared, it would take a few days for the supply to return to normal.
Reporting by Flavia Bohone and Marcelo Teixeira; Arrangement by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas