27 Februari 2015

[270215.EN.BIZ] Police Reopen Santos Port, But Brazil's Striking Truckers Block Roads

POLICE have cleared away striking truckers and reopened Brazil's main Port of Santos that serves Sao Paulo, but the strikers continue to block roads where most farming and industry is located, Reuters reports.

By Thursday, blocked roads fell to 57 from about 100 on Wednesday as some drivers returned to work, according to Globo TV News. But roadblocks were still slowing traffic on 27 highways in four states.

After a second week, the government prepared to meet strikers while rejecting demands to cut diesel fuel prices. Drivers have blocked roads for eight days, protesting fuel prices and tolls, poor road quality and driver rule changes .

Work stoppages have made diesel and raw materials delivery difficult and threatened to hold up grain exports after a bumper harvest.

The government has threatened fines of BRL100, 000 (US$35,000) on truckers who block roads, but with little effect as blockages spread into more than 10 of Brazil's 26 states.

Strikebreaking drivers are targets of enforcers in the grain belt. "Guys run alongside trailers and pull the drop gates so soybeans run out" onto the ground, said American agricultural consultant in Brazil.

Some truckers have agreed to end the strike after the government told them it would extend a year of free financing for vehicles from a state development bank, keep diesel prices unchanged for six months, and help set freight rates.

There were "advances" on grievances, said Cynthia Laves, spokeswoman for the National Independent Transporters Association (CNTA), adding that her group recommends blockages stop to make progress in the next round of negotiations.

But the more militant National Transport Command, led by Invar Luis Schmidt, said: "We don't accept it." Mr Schmidt claims to hold sway over most strikers, adding that the government had excluded his group from talks.

Source : HKSG.

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