Lula, Bolsonaro teams to discuss Brazil’s political transition


Protests and highway blockades by supporters of Jair Bolsonaro lose momentum as the transition to Lula’s government begins.

Brazilian President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s team meets with outgoing leader Jair Bolsonaro’s camp to discuss the political transition as pro-Bolsonaro protests and roadblocks begin to ease.

Lula’s vice president-elect Geraldo Alckmin, a former governor of Sao Paulo tapped to lead the transition process, will hold talks with Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, in the capital Brasilia on Thursday.

Nogueira told reporters this week that Bolsonaro had “approved” the transition.

The far-right leader said on Tuesday that he will respect Brazil’s constitution, but he has stopped conceding the election or congratulating Lula on his second-round victory on Sunday.

Lula, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2010, received 50.9 percent of the vote, compared to 49.1 percent for Bolsonaro. He is the first sitting Brazilian president to lose a reelection bid in Brazil’s post-dictatorship era.

Bolsonaro had been silent for nearly 48 hours after the results were announced, raising concerns that the former army captain intended to challenge the results.

For months he had falsely claimed that Brazil’s electronic voting system was vulnerable to fraud, warning rights groups and international observers against anti-democratic actions if Bolsonaro lost to Lula, as most polls had predicted.

But many of Bolsonaro’s closest allies were quick to acknowledge Lula’s victory, and world leaders also congratulated Brazil on holding “free, fair and credible elections.”

“All of Bolsonaro’s escape valves were closed,” Brian Winter, a longtime Brazil expert and vice president of the New York-based Council of the Americas, told The Associated Press. “He was persuaded from all sides not to contest the results and burn down the house on his way out.”

Nevertheless, this week thousands of Bolsonaro supporters took to the streets to protest the vote. Many called on the Brazilian armed forces to intervene to prevent Lula from taking office on January 1.

Truckers, a key Bolsonaro constituency, have blocked major roads across the country, especially in the strongholds of outgoing president Santa Catarina and Mato Grosso.

Vice President-elect Geraldo Alckmin will lead the transition of government for Lula .’s team [Adriano Machado/Reuters]

According to Brazil’s federal highway police, protesters partially or completely blocked highways in 76 locations in eight of the country’s 26 states as of Thursday morning, up from 126 earlier.

Access to the port of Paranagua, one of the most important for Brazilian grain exports, was no longer blocked on Thursday morning, authorities also said.

Bolsonaro late Wednesday urged his supporters to end the blockades, saying in a social media video that the demonstrations were legitimate, but the roadblocks were restricting people’s right to come and go and hurt the economy.

“Everyone suffers from the closed roads. I ask you to clear the way and protest elsewhere,” Bolsonaro said. He had previously said the protests were the result of “outrage and a sense of injustice” at the way the vote was conducted.

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