Brazil truckers continue some roadblocks after crackdown

lunes 2 de marzo de 2015 09:59 GYT

SAO PAULO, March 3 (Reuters) - Striking truck drivers resumed some roadblocks in Brazil on Monday even as the government cracked down on protesters and promised to implement a law to lower toll costs and give other benefits to the transport sector.

In the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where police had cleared roads by detaining protesters and bringing in back-up troops on Sunday, protesters were stopping trucks at 10 points, the local highway police said. Police were working to clear them, a spokesman said.

Two roadblocks also remained on the BR 163 highway of top soy-growing state Mato Grosso, according to highway operator Rodo do Oeste. The federal highway police had not yet given an official count of nationwide roadblocks on Monday.

The nearly 2-week-old movement has slowed grain deliveries, forced meat-processing plants to close and started to leave some grocery stores with bare shelves.

The country's No. 2 and 3 soy-exporting ports of Paranagua and Rio Grande have warned that dwindling soy stocks at the ports could affect exports if roadblocks continue.

The federal government on Monday said it would sign into law a new truckers' bill that would lower toll costs, waive fines for overweight trucks charged in the last two years and build more rest points on federal highways.

Though he said the law would do little to address protesters' main concern over high diesel fuel costs, Diumar Bueno, the president of the National Confederation of Autonomous Transporters, said he was urging members to stop the protests.

"They can't afford to remain on strike anymore, they need to work," Bueno said, saying the confederation would urge protesters not to heed a call by some truckers to travel to Brasilia to protest.

The main grains-exporting port of Santos has operated normally for the past week, although protesters briefly moved onto a major highway on Sunday in the state of Sao Paulo where the port is located.

Protesters in Rio Grande do Sul torched a vehicle full of tires over the weekend, police said, after protester Cléber Adriano Machado Ouriques was killed by a truck that did not stop at a blockade in the municipality of São Sepé. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)