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Truckers Strike in Brazil's Agricultural Belt

  • Reuters

A fireman works to extinguish a burning tire barricade set on fire by protesting truckers, in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 9, 2015.

A fireman works to extinguish a burning tire barricade set on fire by protesting truckers, in Brasilia, Brazil, Nov. 9, 2015.

Independent truckers in Brazil started an indefinite strike on Monday, blocking traffic in a few states in the agricultural powerhouse as they asked for President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment, according to federal highway police.

There were protests in 11 states, police said, but federal roads were only totally blocked in four places nationwide and partially blocked in 22.

A two-week truck strike in late February blocked roads at more than 100 sites. The federal government is negotiating with independent truckers to try to prevent a prolonged strike and supply shortages.

Brazil is the world's top exporter of soybeans, coffee, sugar and beef. The soy crop is currently being planted so exports of Brazil's main cash crop will not be effected.

Brazil's animal protein association said that pork and poultry shipments could be disrupted in a crucial month for the sector, with demand from buyers in the Northern Hemisphere increasing ahead of their winter. The sector lost some 700 million reais ($184 million) due to the roadblocks in February.

The February strike included specific demands such as controlling rising diesel costs and implementing minimum freight rates, concerns organizers still do not believe have been met.

But this protest is more political in nature and includes calls for Rousseff's impeachment.

The truckers were protesting at a time of deepening discontent in Latin America's largest economy, complicating negotiations.

"If we had a list of demands, the government is always open to dialogue, but this is a strike with a sole purpose of wearing down the government," Rousseff's spokesman, Edinho Silva, said.

Brazil's main trucking unions are not participating in the strike. An informal group called the National Transport Command, which has been organizing the demonstrations online, has more than 44,000 Facebook followers.

A video posted by the Command late on Sunday said they were fighting to end corruption and for more opportunities for all Brazilians.

($1 = 3.8 reais)

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