(Update 2: changes headline, re-ledes, rewrites throughout)
Brasilia, Sep 9 (EFE).- Truck drivers acquiesced – albeit reluctantly – to President Jair Bolsonaro’s request on Thursday that they free up Brazilian roads they had blocked to demand the dismissal of Supreme Court justices.
After blocking assorted highways in about half of Brazil’s 27 states for about 24 hours, the truckers little by little unblocked the roads, allowing traffic to begin moving again, but on the social networks many of them expressed their uncertainty about a request from the president that they end their protest.
The demobilization accelerated after Bolsonaro met at the executive mansion with leaders of the movement, who afterwards told reporters that, even after the meeting, they were intending to ask the Senate to launch procedures to remove Supreme Court justices.
At the few remaining blockade sites along various roadways, one right in the center of Brasilia – and according to the government they would all be unblocked “in the coming days” – truckers expressed disappointment with Bolsonaro’s decision to end protests that, they said, he had initially encouraged.
In massive demonstrations on Tuesday, the ultrarightist leader had urged the public to disobey the rulings and orders of the high court, demanded the dismissal of some of the justices and called on the “people” to help end the “interference” of the judiciary and Parliament in executive affairs.
According to Bolsonaro, the protests, where the crowds demanded a “military intervention” and the “dissolution” of the high court and Congress, should be taken as an “ultimatum” and should obligate those two branches of government to “bow” to the “wishes of the people.”
However, that speech only served to spark a wave of harsh criticism from all political and institutional sectors.
Although a trucker’s strike demanding the dismissal of high court justices might have been unexpected, so too was the skepticism among many demonstrators regarding an audio message sent by Bolsonaro via the messaging services in which he asked them to end their protest.
Many truckers didn’t believe that it was Bolsonaro and wanted Infrastructure Minister Tarcisio Freitas to record a video guaranteeing that the audio message was genuine.
“It’s real, it’s from today, and it shows the president’s concern” over the strike’s impact on the economy, Freitas said.
It was also confirmed that one of the promoters of the protests, ultrarightist activist Marcos Antonio Pereira, known as “Ze Trovao,” in reality had been agitating in recent days from Mexico, where he had fled last week after a court ordered his arrest for organizing anti-democratic events.
Trovao confirmed this in a video he disseminated via the social networks, in which he said that he could be arrested “at any moment,” adding that the truckers had done nothing more than what Bolsonaro had asked.
“We always support him and we’re fighting with the people for their government. So, look well at what’s happening to so many” who support Bolsonaro, the activist said disappointedly and alluding to the various supporters of the president who have been arrested for conspiring against democracy and whom people are now saying have been “abandoned” by Bolsonaro.
So far, the president’s criticism of the country’s democratic institutions have been censured rigorously by Parliament, the Supreme Court and most of the political parties and business organizations.
On Thursday, the president of the Supreme Electoral Court, Luis Barroso, joined the chorus to say that the president’s conduct “shames Brazil before the world.”
Barroso, who Bolsonaro accuses of preparing to commit fraud in the 2022 elections – presumably to engineer his defeat – said that “democracy has a place for conservatives, liberals and progressives,” provided that they remain “united in respect for the Constitution.”
He added, however, alluding to the radicalism among the extreme right, that democracy “has no place for those who intend to destroy it.”
The opposition, in the face of the Bolsonaro-backed and -backing demonstrations, are also preparing their own rallies and have convened protests around the country for next Sunday to demand the opening of impeachment proceedings against the president with an eye toward removing him from office.