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November 13, 2015

Brazilian Truck Driver Strike Fades Quickly

The protest by independent truck drivers in Brazil that started on Monday, November 9th, has faded quickly. With only a few partially blocked highways remaining in far southern Brazil, the strike is essentially over. None of the major trucking organizations in Brazil supported the strike because of the political nature of the protest. In addition to demanding lower fuel costs and higher freight rates, the drivers also demanded the impeachment of President Rousseff, which is the primary reason why other organizations did not support the strike.

The protest was advertised in advance and it appears that the federal government was well prepared to handle this protest. The government apparently learned a valuable lesson from the previous strike by drivers back in March, which ended when the strikers were issued fines for blocking the highways.

On the second day of this protest, the federal government declared that blocking highways was a criminal act and that any organization that promoted the activity would be treated as a criminal organization and face very heavy fines. In fact, the fines for both individuals and organizations were tripled this time compared to last March with some fines as high as approximately US$ 5,000 per day. There were even threats of issussing the fines per hour of blockage.

Individual drivers who are fined for blocking the highways could be barred for ten years from receiving any financial assistance from the government to purchase new trucks in the form of low interest loans.

The government also issued guidelines that stated that trucks that were intentionally blocking traffic could be towed and confiscated and that drivers would be required to pay the fines and towing costs before they could retrieve their trucks. The government also authorized the use of an elite police force called the National Force for Public Safety to remove any blockades. The bottom line is that the government took a very hard line against the protesters and it seems to have worked.

Officials also stated that they could not conduct negotiations with the independent drivers because there is no central organization to negotiate with. Additionally, the administration said that demanding the impeachment of the president was a non-starter and that they would not negotiate their own removal.