By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Despite an agreement between Brazil’s federal government and several truckers’ associations on Wednesday, February 25th, to unblock federal highways, a report by the country’s Federal Highway Police on Thursday afternoon showed that truckers continue to protest on at least 88 federal highways, blocking traffic on 27 of them.
According to the Federal Highway Police, the disruption is especially troublesome in the Southern part of the country in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina and Parana. The states of Bahia and Mato Grosso have also registered obstructions.
“We talked to all of those who came to us to dialogue. Representatives of workers and of companies were there for the agreement,” said Justice Minister, José Eduardo Cardozo to reporters Thursday, February 26th. Now, says Cardozo, truckers who continue to block highways will be fined between R$1,000-R$50,000 per hour for the obstruction.
Cardozo stated that although government officials sat down with truckers’ representatives on Wednesday and reached a compromise, nearly half of the more than 2.2 million truck drivers in Brazil are not members of associations or unions, which weakens negotiations for the segment.
Among the more important items decided upon during Wednesday’s negotiations, the government agreed to sanction the Truckers’ Law with no vetoes by the President, negotiate a reference table for freight costs and to abolish toll fees for truckers who pass tollbooths with empty vehicles. Petrobras is also said to have agreed not to increase diesel fuel prices for the next six months.
Cardozo, however, said that these agreements would only be applied if truckers unblock federal highways.
The protest is estimated to cost Brazil around R$20,800 per day, as the transport of products and fuel is hindered. In Santa Catarina, surgeries had reportedly been canceled, as the necessary medication couldn’t reach the hospital. In the west of the state, ninety percent of gas stations were without fuel.