Brazilian truckers strike enters its 7th day

28 May, 2018, 06:43 | Author: Regina Silva
  • Brazilian truckers strike enters its 7th day

The strike followed complaints from truck drivers about the rising cost of diesel oil, which has gone up sharply in recent months as world oil prices rise and the Brazilian real weakens against the USA dollar.

It was not immediately clear if protesting truckers would demobilize on Monday.

On Friday, President Michel Temer authorized the military to use force if need be.

The association blamed the government for taking so long to respond to trucker complaints that go back to a year ago. "Truckers know how to count, Mr. President".

"We gave everything they have asked for", said Temer of the measures, expected to cost Brazilian taxpayers some 10 billion reais ($2.7 billion).

The hundreds of trucks parked alongside the highways not allowing others trucks through has led to a shortage of fuel and food in several states.

Thousands of public schools announced closures on Friday, as teachers and other staff could not get to work.

Local media reported food shortages and rationing in some supermarkets, and an association of supermarkets in Brazil's south warned that perishable food would run out in days if the strike did not end.

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Public schools and universities in several cities called off classes on Friday, and the worldwide airport in the capital of Brasilia announced that nine flights were cancelled, including an American Airlines flight from Miami.

The strike action followed Temer's decision in late 2016 to grant Brazilian oil giant Petrobras autonomy over its pricing. The measure would allow the city to buy gas from private gas stations without a bidding process and spend beyond its fiscal budget, according to a statement.

However, Petrobras CEP Pedro Parente said the decision to cut prices for 15 days and then start gradually bringing them back up to market levels had not been made under pressure from the government, but aimed to ease the pressure on the streets, where more than 200,000 truckers are protesting the price hikes resulting from higher global oil prices. Citing unnamed sources, Reuters said investors were anxious that if Petrobras changes its pricing strategy, it might lead to unfair competition at the expense of smaller private fuel retailers-bad news for refinery owners.

Shares of the state-owned oil company, Petrobras, dropped by 15% on Thursday after it announced it was cutting diesel prices by 10% to encourage negotiations.

However, many truckers still refused to return to work.

Luiz Antonio, a trucker who was striking outside of Rio de Janeiro on Friday, said he didn't trust what had been negotiated in Brasilia.

Temer said he had "mobilized the security forces" to clear the roads. The cost of diesel oil has gone up in recent months as world oil prices have risen and the Brazilian real has weakened against the US dollar. In addition, major cities such as Rio de Janeiro have sharply reduced public transportation, and schools and universities said they would not open this morning because of transportation hurdles.

The government must either subsidize fuel by lowering taxes or allow truckers to charge more for their routes, costs that would ultimately be passed on to consumers, he said. "Any solution will be very costly".

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