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Bolsonaro asks supporters to unblock roads

November 3, 2022

The statement from the outgoing president comes after days of highway roadblocks and other demonstrations to protest the result of the presidential election on Sunday.

A protester at a roadblock walks with a Brazilian flag draped over their back. In the background, something is on fire
Truck drivers had blocked hundreds of roads in almost every state of BrazilImage: Andre Penner/AP/picture alliance

Brazil's outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has asked his supporters to stand down after truck drivers blocked highways around the country to protest Sunday's election result.

In a brief statement delivered on Twitter — only Bolsonaro's second public address since he lost the election — the outgoing president said protests were "legitimate" and "welcome," but he urged supporters to clear the roadways so people could move freely.

For a second time, he did not explicitly concede defeat, nor did he congratulate the winner, leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

"I know you are upset ... Me too. But we have to keep our heads straight," Bolsonaro said. "I will make an appeal to you: clear the highways."

"Other demonstrations that are taking place throughout Brazil in squares... are part of the democratic game. They are welcome," he added.

Police disperse protesters

After election results were announced on Sunday, pro-Bolsonaro truck drivers and other protesters staged hundreds of road blocks in more than 20 states around Brazil. Some of them called for a military intervention to keep Bolsonaro in power.

The Supreme Federal Court ordered the use of "all necessary measures" to open the roads. In Sao Paulo, military police used tear gas to disperse protesters at one major blockade.

Federal highway police said 732 roadblocks had been cleared across the country. Around 146 remained as of Wednesday.

The protests threatened to disrupt agricultural exports, while the main airport in Sao Paulo canceled 48 flights, citing the protests.

Government handover underway

Although Bolsonaro has not personally conceded defeat, Brazil's Supreme Court said that he had recognized the result of the election by authorizing the start of a transition to a government by Lula.

"All of Bolsonaro's escape valves were shut off,'' Brian Winter, a longtime Brazil expert and vice president of the New York-based Council of the Americas, told the Associated Press. "He was prevailed upon from all sides not to contest the results and burn down the house on his way out."

Brazilian broadcaster Globo on Wednesday quoted Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao, a former general, as saying, "there is no sense in whining any more — we lost the game. There is nothing to complain about." 

zc/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)