“We hope the army will intervene in this situation, we know those elections were fraudulent,” claimed Reinaldo da Silva, 65, a retired government worker at a rally at the entrance to a Sao Paulo army barracks.
In response to a request for comment, the Defence Ministry said peaceful demonstrations were part of free expression under Brazilian law, adding that it “was guided by the Federal Constitution”.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has cultivated strong ties to the military since his 2018 election, winning over the political sympathies of some top brass.
Like many politically conservative Brazilians, he has often waxed nostalgic for the 1964-1985 military dictatorship. Lula, by contrast, was jailed in the 1970s for protesting against the military government.
But the armed forces have been wary of direct involvement in politics since the dictatorship, which left the country in economic chaos.
Paulo Chagas, a retired cavalry general who campaigned for Bolsonaro in 2018, said in a message to Reuters: “The military know full well what their duty is: the constitution does not allow them to intervene in politics.”
Bolsonaro added the Federal Highway Police (PRF) had mobilised to help dispel protesters and clear roads but they were overwhelmed because protests were taking place on multiple locations. “The difficulties are enormous.”
Although smaller than in previous days, the truckers protests were still likely disrupting fuel distribution, industrial activity, food deliveries to supermarkets and shipments of grains to ports.
Anvisa, the national health agency, warned that the blockades could lead to shortages of medical supplies.
Police said 732 roadblocks had been cleared across the country, though roads remained blocked or partially blocked in 14 of Brazil’s 26 states, most notably in farm states like Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso, where Bolsonaro has strong popular support.
In earlier remarks, the Brazilian president said the protests resulted from “indignation and a sense of injustice” over the vote. But he had stopped short of explicitly asking his supporters to take down the blockades.
Truckers, a key Bolsonaro constituency that benefited from his policies to lower fuel prices, have disrupted the Brazilian economy by shutting highways before.