A coalition of supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro apparently led by commercial truckers has organized roadblocks in 21 of the country’s 26 states in the past 24 hours, protesting the election of socialist convicted felon President-Elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Bolsonaro himself has not conceded defeat in Sunday’s election or made any public appearances or statements at press time since before the results of the election were announced. Neither Bolsonaro nor his campaign or inner circle have made any indication he will challenge the results of the election, either. According to the country’s top election monitor, the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Lula defeated Bolsonaro 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent, a difference of only about 2 million votes.
Lula da Silva served as Brazil’s president for two terms between 2003 and 2011, lurching the country far to the left and entangling it in unfavorable alliances with China, Russia, and other rogue states. In 2017, Lula was convicted of taking bribe money while president and using it to buy a luxury beachfront property, a conviction that held through multiple appeals and should have barred him from ever running for public office again. Last year, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), the nation’s supreme court, overturned the conviction, claiming the first court to find him guilty did not have jurisdiction.
The STF did not challenge the facts against Lula or present any new evidence exonerating him. As a result, many Bolsonaro voters feel that his presence on the ballot, and thus his victory, are illegitimate. Supporters have also condemned the TSE for banning the Bolsonaro campaign from referring to Lula in campaign statements as “corrupt” or a “thief.” The news outlet Jovem Pan protested a week before the election that the TSE had banned it from discussing the Lula corruption trial in any way, a blatantly unconstitutional move.
Some Bolsonaro supporters have also raised concerns about vote-buying and other alleged election fraud, though no concrete evidence has substantiated those concerns.
Jovem Pan, the censored news network, reported on Tuesday that Brazilian transit police had documented 227 trucker protests nationwide on that day alone in 21 of Brazil’s 26 states and the Federal District of Brasilia (akin to Washington, DC, in America). National transit authorities announced they had dismantled 288 blockades since Sunday’s election; it is not clear if any of the 227 documented on Tuesday included some of those already dismantled.
On the Rodovia Presidente Castelo Branco, one of Sao Paulo’s biggest highways, overheard views showed thousands of commuters stuck, surrounded by trucks with nowhere to go on Monday.
Many of the blockades occurred in a festive atmosphere of Bolsonaro supporters waving Brazilian flags and dancing or chanting slogans such as “Lula ladrão!” (“Lula thief!”).
🎥 Vídeos mostram bolsonaristas, ação da PRF e congestionamento na região do aeroporto de Guarulhos pic.twitter.com/YdNQgJnAZ6
— UOL Notícias (@UOLNoticias) November 1, 2022
In Florianapolis, Santa Catarina state, the truckers organized an impromptu barbecue party, grilling meats on the side of the road.
While most blockades appeared peaceful, some Bolsonaro supporters used ignited tires rather than trucks to block roads. One of the biggest such displays occurred in Curitiba, the city where the investigation that led to Lula’s corruption conviction began.
🇷 | Curitiba: Camioneros de paro general cortan las rutas en protesta por la victoria de Lula, reclaman que los va a perseguir políticamente por haber apoyado a Bolsonaro.pic.twitter.com/hAPZzaLlxf
— La Derecha Diario (@laderechadiario) November 1, 2022
Several other Brazilian states experienced fire blockades.
The protests do not appear to have any organized leadership or goal. The heads of the nation’s largest trucking unions have condemned the protests and insisted they played no role on organizing them, in some cases denying that many truckers are even involved. Some participants on social media have stated they merely want to make clear that the nation rejects Lula as its leader, while others are demanding concrete action from Bolsonaro or a military coup to prevent Lula from taking power, as his conviction should ban him from holding public office.
One trucker participating, Janderson Maçanero, told the G1 news network that, in fact, only about 20 percent of the protesters are truckers, by his estimates, but all support Bolsonaro.
“The position of the president is what will determine the path of the protesters or their positioning,” Maçanero told G1. “We are waiting for him to speak. Either Bolsonaro goes to war, or he will be extinguished from the political scene because then he is not the leader we thought he was.”
By “go to war,” the trucker clarified that he meant contesting the results of the election, not taking military action as commander-in-chief. Maçanero, G1 noted, explicitly denied supporting a military coup.
Videos from Mato Grosso state on Monday night indicated that many protesters shared Maçanero’s patient expectations of the president.
“We are awaiting your orders, captain!” a man can be heard shouting in a video of one of the blockades in the state, referring to Bolsonaro’s rank in the Brazilian military. “We will do what is necessary, the Brazilian people are with you, captain!”
Following a supreme court order to send military police in to end the blockades on Tuesday, reports of officers firing tear gas and otherwise attacking the crowds of conservatives began to surface. In Novo Hamburgo, Rio Grande Sul, tear gas and rubber bullets flew on Monday night, according to the newspaper O Globo, ultimately ending most blockades in the state.
Bolsonaro has yet to speak at press time. The only person close to the president who has spoken publicly on the election is his son, Sen. Flavio Bolsonaro, who posted a message to Twitter on Monday that offered no clarity regarding his father’s plans to either concede or challenge the election.
“Thank you to each one of you who has helped us rescue patriotism, who prayed, went to the street, gave their sweat for the country,” the senator wrote, “and gave Bolsonaro the biggest vote of his life! Let’s lift our heads and let’s not give up on our Brazil! God is in charge!”
“Father, I’m with you come what may!” he added.
Obrigado a cada um que nos ajudou a resgatar o patriotismo, que orou, rezou, foi para as ruas, deu seu suor pelo país que está dando certo e deu a Bolsonaro a maior votação de sua vida! Vamos erguer a cabeça e não vamos desistir do nosso Brasil! Deus no comando!
— Flavio Bolsonaro #B22 (@FlavioBolsonaro) October 31, 2022
Pai, estou contigo pro que der e vier!
— Flavio Bolsonaro #B22 (@FlavioBolsonaro) October 31, 2022
Bolsonaro reportedly met with his defense minister on Tuesday but his office has yet to reveal any plans for public appearances or statements at press time.