By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After officials announced a deal Thursday night with striking truck drivers, Friday remained tense as the country’s roadways remained blocked and supplies ran short across the country. This led President Temer to authorize the use of the Armed Forces to clear the highways and release the products waylaid on the roads.
Across Brazil the truck blockade has now reached its sixth day. According to Minister of Public Security, Raul Jungmann, after the agreement was made on Thursday the number of roadways blocked was reduced from 938 to around five hundred, and none were completely closed to traffic.
The decree signed by President Temer to call in the Armed Forces was published yesterday (May 25th) and authorizes the use of the military through June 4th, in as allowed by the Guarantee of Law and Order (GLO). Now the Army will support the police forces, such as the Military Police (PM), the Federal Highway Police (PRF) and the National Force, in clearing the roads.
In addition, the decree authorizes the Armed Forces to be able to commandeer vehicles and take them to distribute the products they carry, but this will only be done if the owner of the truck – whether the company or the driver himself – refuses to travel.
According to the Ministry of Defense’s latest assessment, from Friday to Saturday at midnight, 132 points on the country’s highways that were blocked have been cleared by the PRF with support from the Armed Forces. However more than twelve hours after the GLO decree was signed, 387 highways remained blocked to some extent, as reported by the PRF.
Meanwhile the country continues to be in crisis as fuel and other supplies have been choked off. Wilson Hsu, an American expatriate from Los Angeles whose family runs a florist shop in Rio’s SAARA (Centro), the Festamania Presentes Ltda, told The Rio Times, “after the fourth day we started to see it affecting us and took a deep drop in sales.”
Public support for the strike seems split, and Hsu shared, “I honestly feel everyone is on the fence with [the strike support] … something like this needs to happen, but at the same time nobody wants to lose business.”
A driver, João Paulo Silveira, who has a small five-truck company, told a government agency news source that he had to fire two employees and sell one of the trucks already to pay the bills. “Before, I made R$20,000 a month. Now I only make R$5,000.”
Regarding the agreement on Thursday evening, he said, “Before we did not get what we wanted. There are only promises, but then everything comes back as it was before. You have to reduce the price permanently, not only for thirty days,” said Silveira.