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Lorry drivers backing Bolsonaro block hundreds of roads in election protest

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Brazilian truckers supportive of President Jair Bolsonaro blocked hundreds of roads to protest against his election loss to former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Since the left-wing Mr da Silva’s’s victory on Sunday night, many truck drivers have jammed traffic in areas across the country and said they will not acknowledge Mr Bolsonaro’s defeat.

Mr Bolsonaro has not spoken publicly since official results were released roughly 36 hours ago, nor phoned Mr da Silva to concede.

The highway to and from the international airport in Sao Paulo – Brazil’s most populous state and largest economy – was blocked and dozens of flights were cancelled.

Videos on social media showed travellers rolling their suitcases at night along the highway to the airport. Access was partially re-established as of 8am local time.

In neighbouring Minas Gerais, a key battleground state in the election, a video on social media showed a protester telling a reporter from O Tempo: “We won’t stop as long as we don’t have a response from our president.”

The man wearing a green-and-yellow shirt – the colours of the Brazilian flag and of the nation’s conservative movement – claimed the election was “fraudulent” and warned of future protests.

“We want Bolsonaro in 2023 and for the years to come,” he said.

In 2018, an 11-day lorry drivers’ strike brought Brazil to a halt, caused food prices to spike, and left supermarket shelves without products as petrol stations ran out of fuel. It caused billions in losses and revealed the vast power that drivers possess, particularly when they organise through social media platforms.

Mr Bolsonaro, a lawmaker at the time and months away from winning that year’s presidential election, was an outspoken supporter of the truckers.

This year, his administration limited interstate fuel taxes to help bring down prices and launched a financial aid programme for truck drivers just ahead of the presidential election campaign.

A majority of Brazilian Supreme Court justices early on Tuesday voted to order the federal highway police to clear the blocked roads immediately.

As of 8am local time on Tuesday, highway police had removed nearly 200 blockades, according to the Ministry of Justice.

By noon police said they had removed 306 blockades, but more than 260 were still in place.

Federal public prosecutors in Sao Paulo and Goias states said they had opened investigations into the blockades.

Mr da Silva’s Workers’ Party has accused Mr Bolsonaro’s campaign of deploying the police force to create traffic jams and deter people from voting on election day, when videos of officials stopping buses shot across social media.

The party said the alleged efforts were particularly focused in the north-east region that is a Workers’ Party stronghold.

Mr Bolsonaro lost the race by a thin margin, garnering 49.1% of the vote to Mr da Silva’s 50.9%. It was the tightest presidential race since Brazil’s return to democracy over three decades ago.

Much like former US president Donald Trump, whom Mr Bolsonaro openly admires, the far-right incumbent repeatedly questioned the reliability of the country’s electoral system, claiming electronic voting machines are prone to fraud. He never provided any proof, even when ordered to do so by the electoral court.

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