By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An agreement was reached on Thursday night by the Brazilian government and truck drivers ending the protests that almost brought the country to a standstill. Truck drivers agreed to unblock highways for the next fifteen days while officials find a way to reduce diesel fuel prices.
“It’s time to look at people who are without food or medicine. The Brazilian family depends on road transportation. We applaud this agreement humbly saying to the truck drivers ‘we need you’,” said President Temer’s Chief of Staff, Eliseu Padilha Thursday after announcing the accord.
Although officials announced the suspension of the protest the decision among truck drivers’ associations was not unanimous. Of the eleven entities participating in the demonstrations, the largest, the Brazilian Truck Drivers Association (Abcam), which represents 700,000 truck drivers, rejected the proposal.
The association’s president, José Fonseca Lopes, left the meeting with government officials vowing to continue the protest. “Everyone agreed with the position [the government] asked for, but I did not. […] I came to solve the problem of [taxes] PIS, Cofins and Cide, which are embedded in the price of fuel,” Lopes told reporters, raising doubts as to whether or not highways would be cleared on Friday morning.
Truck drivers started to block some of Brazil’s major highways on Monday, protesting the increasing prices of diesel oil and demanding that the government reduce tax fuels for the sector.
On Wednesday oil giant Petrobras agreed to reduce diesel prices at refineries by ten percent during the next fifteen days, a pledge that was extended to thirty days on Thursday.
On Thursday, pressured by the news of increasing shortages of fuel at gas stations due to inability of fuel tankers to reach pumps due to the protests, the government also pledged to end on of the tariffs over diesel fuel by the end of the year and to negotiate with states to end of toll tariffs for empty trucks with suspended axles.