Brazil independent truckers strike got off on Monday to a weak start because of internal divisions on how to protest fuel prices. The government said traffic was flowing freely on all of the country's highways far from fears of a repeat of the 2018 protest that disrupted food and fuel supplies.
The Infrastructure Ministry Tarciso Gomes de Freitas in a series of tweets citing highway patrol police around Brazil, said that on all federal roadways as of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. there was free flow of vehicles without holdups.
Truckers had stopped two lanes of traffic near the Sao Paulo suburb of Barueri, although other lanes continued to allow cars to pass, news website UOL reported, saying no other roads in Sao Paulo state were blocked.
A senior union leader admitted truckers were divided over the strike, predicting that there would not be major stoppages.
President Jair Bolsonaro had appealed to truckers not to strike, saying the government was looking for ways to lower fuel prices.
The memory of the 2018 strike over high diesel prices remains fresh in Brazil, when roadways were paralyzed for weeks leading food, medicine and other essentials to dwindle on store shelves.
The government settled that strike by establishing minimum freight prices. Some truckers are now saying that those prices are too low, although the minimums have also caused frictions with Brazil's powerful farm lobby by raising transport costs for agricultural products.
Concerns over possible disruptions in medical supplies needed to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic have also eroded popular support for the strike. On 29 January, a federal court in Rio de Janeiro granted an injunction prohibiting demonstrations on a coastal highway that traverses the state.
Bolsonaro extended an olive branch to the truck drivers last week with a pledge to reduce the federal fuel tax PIS/Cofins for diesel. The infrastructure minister said the government remains open to policy discussions with the truckers.
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