By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After eight days of chaos on Brazilian highways, closed gas stations across the country, reduced public transportation and the loss of hundreds of thousands of kilos of perishables goods, Brazil’s federal government has finally yielded to protesters demands in hopes of restoring order and the economy in the country.
“We have advanced in the implementation of many measures, due to the need for the standstill movement to end,” said President Michel Temer on Sunday night in a statement. “We spent this week focused on meeting the demands of the truck drivers and worried about every Brazilian who faced difficulties during these days,” he added.
Last Thursday (May 24th) it seemed an agreement was had been reached when Petrobras announced it was reducing diesel fuel prices by ten percent. But the majority of truck drivers said that was not enough demanded that the government reduce or do away with several fuel taxes. Over the weekend they remained blocking highways and disrupting the transportation of goods.
“My government has always been open to dialogue and we even signed an agreement with leaders of the movement, right at the beginning [of the movement],” said Temer before announcing additional measures.
The new agreement announced on Sunday calls for, among other measures, a reduction of R$0.46/liter in the price of diesel fuel for the next sixty days, an end of toll collection in federal, state and municipal highways for empty trucks, and the requirement that thirty percent of CONAB’s (National Supply Company) freight be made by independent truckers.
Congress is also expected to vote on the reduction and exemption of fuel taxes for truck drivers on Monday. One of the largest associations protesting, ABCAM (Brazilian Truck Drivers Association) said in an official statement that it had accepted the government’s plan and called members to leave highways and get back to work.
“Trucker friends: come back to work satisfied and proud. We managed to stop this country and be recognized by the Brazilian society and the government of this country,” said ABCAM president José da Fonseca Lopes.
“We will be remembered as those who did not give in to the refusals [to deal] of the government and the pressure of the businessmen of the sector. We have the recognition that our work is paramount for the development of this country. Come back with the sense of mission accomplished, but remembering that the fight does not end here,” added Lopes.
Even if demonstrators end their protest on Monday, analysts say it will still be another few days before gas stations receive fuel and local markets receive goods. Many cities announced over the weekend that public schools would be closed, non-emergency surgeries cancelled and events postponed at least until Tuesday or Wednesday.
A great majority of Brazilian cities are still operating with reduced public transportation and fuel is only available to essential emergency service vehicles.
Eight of the 54 airports operated by the government-run aviation agency, Infraero, are closed on Monday due to the lack of aviation kerosene.
The international airport of Brasilia, in the nation’s capital, has asked airlines to only land if they have enough fuel to continue to their final destination, since fuel has been reduced to minimum levels.