Brazil’s Bolsonaro avoids conceding election defeat, but allows transition to begin

Click to play video: 'Brazil election: Bolsonaro avoids conceding to Lula, but transition to begin'
Brazil election: Bolsonaro avoids conceding to Lula, but transition to begin
WATCH: Bolsonaro avoids conceding to Lula, but transition to begin – Nov 1, 2022

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday avoided conceding defeat in his first public remarks since losing Sunday’s election, saying protests since then were the fruit of “indignation and a sense of injustice” over the vote.

His chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, speaking after Bolsonaro’s brief public address, said Bolsonaro had authorized him to begin the transition process with representatives of leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

It took Bolsonaro more than 44 hours to make his first public remarks since the election was decided by electoral authorities, making him the first Brazilian president to lose a re-election bid. He has still not spoken with Lula.

Amid his silence, supporters blocked highways to protest his defeat, with some calling for a military coup to stop former President Lula from returning to power. Bolsonaro’s delay in recognizing Lula’s election raised fear that he would contest the narrow result of the election.

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In a national address on Tuesday that lasted just a few minutes, Bolsonaro thanked Brazilians who voted for him and reiterated that he would follow the country’s constitution, which stipulates a transition of power on Jan. 1.

He referred to the demonstrations as a “popular movement” and said they should avoid destroying property or “impeding the right to come and go.”

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“They tried to bury me alive”: Lula hails comeback after Brazil election victory

That may not be enough to defuse the protests across Brazil by small groups of his supporters, which have begun to cause economic disruptions and draw calls from farm and retail groups for Bolsonaro to begin a transition.

Close political allies, including his chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Mourao, have begun to make contact with the Lula camp to discuss a transition. Others, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, called on the Bolsonaro government to respect the election result.

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Click to play video: 'Brazil election: Lula defeats Bolsonaro in presidential comeback'
Brazil election: Lula defeats Bolsonaro in presidential comeback

The powerful agricultural lobby CNA, representing farmers who were important campaign donors for Bolsonaro, said it was ready for conversations with the incoming government, which will take office on Jan. 1.

Before Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made baseless claims the electoral system was open to fraud and accused electoral authorities of favoring his leftist adversary.

Lula’s victory represents a stunning comeback for the 77-year-old former metalworker, spent 19 months in jail for corruption convictions before they were annulled last year.

Lula has vowed to overturn many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-gun measures and weak protection of the Amazon rainforest.

Protests expand

Protesters blocked the main access road to the important grain export port of Paranagua for a second day on Tuesday, hobbling shipping from one of the world’s top food producers.

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Meanwhile, poultry and pork processors may have to halt slaughtering at some sites as early as Wednesday, a source said.

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Meat processing plants “can maintain three to four days of slaughter, depending on animals in stock, and after that no longer,” said the source.

In Santa Catarina, one of the hardest hit by the protests, there were disruptions to deliveries of animals for slaughter and shipment of products to markets, a local hog growers lobby said.

Truckers, one of Bolsonaro’s key constituencies, benefited from his policies to lower fuel prices and have previously disrupted the Brazilian economy by shutting highways in recent years.

Fuel distribution was in “a critical situation,” said Valeria Lima, downstream director at energy lobby IBP, adding that she believed the government should form a crisis committee to tackle the protesters.

The IBP said there was a high risk of fuel shortages in Santa Catarina and Parana, and potential disruptions in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s richest state.

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Amazon rainforest on the ballot as Brazilians prepare to elect next president

According to the federal highway police on early Tuesday afternoon, protesters were blocking highways partially or fully in about 200 locations, as part of the protests that have spread to 22 of Brazil’s 27 states. They said another 330 roadblocks had been cleared.

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Rumo, a leading rail company, told Reuters the protests had lowered the number of trucks at certain of its terminals, while there were some disruptions in sections of the railroad in Morretes, Parana, and in Joinville, Santa Catarina.

The company, which operates a large grain terminal in Rondonopolis, Mato Grosso, said all of its contracts are being fulfilled based on the volume of products stored in its warehouses and cargos in transit.

Mato Grosso, Brazil’s biggest grain producer, was also among the most affected by the roadblocks that started after polls closed on Sunday, police data showed, with at least 25 blockades or partial blockades on Tuesday afternoon.

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Brazil heads to presidential run-off with former president Lula in lead over Bolsonaro

The port authority at Santos, Latin America’s biggest port, reiterated in the afternoon things remained normal as protests had not disrupted its land operations.

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In Sao Paulo — Brazil’s most populous state and largest economy — traffic jams around the international airport led to dozens of flight cancellations, with videos on social media showing travelers rolling their suitcases along the highway in the dark trying to catch their flights. The highways had been cleared by Tuesday morning, but airport officials said access remained difficult as traffic was still backed up in and out of the airport.

In Minas Gerais, a key battleground state in the election, a video on social media showed a protester telling a reporter from the O Tempo news outlet that the election was “fraudulent” and warned of future protests. “We won’t stop as long as we don’t have a response from our president,” he said. “We want Bolsonaro in 2023 and for the years to come.”

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Brian Ellsworth, Nayara Figuereido and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Editing by Brad Haynes, Paul Simao and Alistair Bell)

—With additional files from the Associated Press

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