Update on the Truckers Strike in Brazil

As of 7:30 am on Saturday, May 26, the truckers strike is still going full swing here in Brazil.

Here are some takeaways from where I sit:

This has the potential to wreak havoc on Brazilian infrastructure. As I mentioned in my previous post, basically all necessary goods are transported by truck here. No trucks, no goods. That includes essentials such as food, gas, and medical supplies.

Here in São Luís, scenes such as these were common yesterday.

On the way into town, long lines at gas stations.
During the day, the Uber drivers of São Luís blocked the entrance to the city, in support of the truckers.
As the day progressed, more and more gas stations were completely shut down. By the evening, only a handful were open, and lines stretched for blocks.

The general Brazilian populace supports this strike. Even though it is a major inconvenience for most of them, Brazilians seem to be overwhelmingly sympathetic to the truck drivers.

A graphic that is ubiquitous on Brazilian social media. #wearealltruckers

Last night I saw a report on our local TV station of striking truck drivers being fed and cared for by those who live nearby.

The reason for this, I believe, is that the truck drivers are protesting rising prices due – in part – to exorbitant taxes, and this is something with which most Brazilians are growing increasingly frustrated. Many are openly proclaiming the truck drivers as their heroes and cheering them on as the country slowly descends into chaos. It’s like something out of Atlas Shrugged, if John Galt were a trucker.

Brazil’s president has authorized the use of force to put and end to the crisis. So far I have seen no reports of violence, and most of the truckers seem to be holding firm. There are scattered reports of different sectors of the military saying they won’t intervene. And the very latest reports, appearing as I type this, say that President Temer was warned by the truckers of the impending strike, and did nothing. President Temer is wildly unpopular, and none of this is helping.

The Brazilian left is not quite sure what to do. Usually at the forefront of any social unrest, the response of Brazil’s outspoken socialists has been, shall we say, tepid. Indeed, notable in the pictures that have flooded social media is the lack of red flags and t-shirts. One possible reason for this subdued response on the left is that one of the causes of the crisis was the systematic looting of Petrobras (Brazil’s government run oil company) by the previous (leftist) administration. The few leftists I have seen try to make noise on Twitter have been pretty much shouted down in the replies. Indeed, the people who most support the strike seem to be also enthusiastic supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s outspoken, sometimes demagogic, version of Donald Trump.

Here’s an example of how this conversation is going for the left online:

Translation: PT (former ruling Workers Party) says that the crisis could cause ‘authoritarian adventures’

Translation: Who wants to know what the PT says? Do me a favor: Shut up!

Translation: You mean like Maduro, who they support in Venezuela, Or the Castros? Or the dozens of African dictators that Lula (former PT president, now in jail on corruption charges) gave money to? Whatever.

Translation: Who is this PT?

Nobody, but nobody is talking about the World Cup. Usually, World Cup fever convulses the entire nation in patriotic ecstasy.  This year’s celebrations have been notably halfhearted, perhaps due to the 7-1 drubbing Brazil suffered on home turf back in 2014. But this crisis has all but completely removed the World Cup from national consciousness.

The memes have been spectacular. Brazilians are second-to-none when it comes to seeing the humor in any situation, and have taken to the “meme culture” with a gusto. Here are some of my favorites from the last couple of days:

This may be an over-reaction…
“Gandalf, why have we stopped?”
“We’re out of gas.”
Gas is a pretty valuable commodity right now…
When cars are not an option, other modes of transportation become more valuable.
You’re out of gas?
Now you remember me?
Go ride your dog.

And, my favorite…

I have discovered that Brazil has four powers (branches of government)

Where this goes from here in anybody’s guess. I have talked to people who say it will blow over relatively quickly. Others have said that it will last a long time (which would be disastrous). For right now we have canceled our travel plans for today (Michael’s computer class, a family conference at a sister church) in order to have gas for church on Sunday.

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