Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday avoided conceding defeat to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his first public remarks since Sunday’s election.
He said that protests since then were the fruit of ‘indignation and a sense of injustice’ over the vote.
His chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, speaking after Bolsonaro’s brief public address, said they would begin the process of a transition to Lula’s government.
Bolsonaro’s address didn’t mention election results, but he said he will continue to follow the rules of the nation’s constitution.
‘I have always been labeled as anti-democratic and, unlike my accusers, I have always played within the four lines of the constitution,’ Bolsonaro, flanked by more than a dozen ministers and allies, told reporters in the official residence in capital Brasilia.
He added: ‘Peaceful protests will always be welcome. But our methods must not be those of the left, which always harm the population, like invading property… and impeding the right to come and go.’
The presidential address may defuse protests by his angry supporters who have blocked highways in many states across Brazil, along with pro-Bolsonaro truckers calling for him to defy the electoral victory of Lula.
Bolsonaro had remained silent after veteran leftist Lula beat him in the election with 50.83 per cent of the vote compared to 49.17 per cent on Sunday night.
Bolsonaro’s political allies, including his chief of staff Ciro Nogueira, have already begun to establish contact with the Lula camp to discuss a transition.
President Jair Bolsonaro (pictured on October 28) on Tuesday avoided conceding defeat to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his first public remarks since Sunday’s election
The presidential address may defuse protests by his angry supporters who have blocked highways in many states across Brazil, along with pro-Bolsonaro truckers calling for him to defy the electoral victory of leftist Lula
Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro gesture at a Military Police vehicle during a blockade on the outskirts of Sao Paulo on Tuesday
Bolsonaro had remained silent after veteran leftist Lula (pictured celebrating election win) beat him in the election with 50.83 per cent of the vote compared to 49.17 per cent on Sunday night
Some, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, have publicly said the Bolsonaro government should respect the election result.
But truckers, who have benefited from Bolsonaro lowering diesel costs, have called on Bolsonaro to defy the result. They have blocked highways with their vehicles and burning tyres across Brazil in protest against Lula’s victory.
Some truckers posted videos calling for a military coup to stop Lula from taking office.
The Brazilian supermarkets lobby has reported supply problems due to the protests and appealed to Bolsonaro to resolve the situation before shop shelves begin to empty.
The Supreme Court ordered police to remove scores of blockades that had blocked access to a key grains-exporting port, shut off the country’s largest airport started to affect the transportation of food and fuel.
The highways blocked by Bolsonaro supporters included key roads used to move grains from farm states to ports, as well as a major road linking the two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The main access road to Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport, the busiest in the country, was temporarily blocked by dozens of demonstrators and 25 flights were canceled, the airport said. But Governor Rodrigo Garcia said the highway was reopened on Tuesday morning.
‘We honest Brazilians are against the return of that gang that looted state coffers,’ said truck driver Vando Soares, opposed to the return to office of Lula, whose 2003-2010 presidency was marked by widespread corruption.
‘We are not moving until that bandit is stopped from assuming as president,’ he said.
Another demonstrator, Naiele Souza, said she thought Bolsonaro was waiting to see how the demonstrations went before addressing the nation.
Lula’s win represents a stunning comeback for the 77-year-old former metalworker, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 but then spent time in prison for corruption convictions that were later annulled.
Lula has vowed to overturn many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-gun measures and weak protection of the Amazon rainforest.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle have unfollowed each other on Instagram following the election defeat, sparking rumours of a split.
The first lady also unfollowed her stepson Carlos, the president’s second eldest son, Carlos Bolsonaro, who is believed to run his father’s social media.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and his wife Michelle have unfollowed each other on Instagram in the wake of his narrow election defeat to his left-wing rival Lula
In the hours after the result was announced, eagle-eyed observers noticed both Bolsonaro and his wife were no longer following each other
The first lady also unfollowed her stepson Carlos, the president’s second eldest son, Carlos Bolsonaro, who is believed to run his father’s social media
Addressing the rumours, Michelle, 40, posted a statement on her Instagram stories without following her husband back.
She said: ‘With regards to today’s article about my husband having unfollowed me on his Instagram, as Jair explained in several Lives, he does not manage his network.
‘My husband and I remain firm, united, believing in God and believing in the best for Brazil.
‘We will always be together, loving each other in joy and in sadness. May God bless our beloved nation.’
The couple wed in 2007 and is Bolsonaro’s third wife and they share a daughter Laura together.
The president shares three sons with his first wife Rogeria Nantes Braga, and a son with his second wife Ana Cristina Valle.
Addressing the rumours, Michelle, 40, posted a statement on her Instagram stories without following her husband back
The couple wed in 2007 and is Bolsonaro’s third wife and they share a daughter Laura together
Furious Bolsonaro supporters have blocked roads with trucks and flaming barricades across the country
When he was in congress, Bolsonaro hired Michelle as a secretary and received a number of unexpected promotions and her salary tripled under his management.
He was then force to fire her over nepotism after the Supreme Federal Court ruled against him.
Ricardo Barros, Bolsonaro’s whip in the country’s Lower House, told The Associated Press by phone that he was with the president on Monday and that the president was ‘still deciding’ whether to speak about the election’s results.
Much like his political hero Trump, the outgoing Brazilian leader has repeatedly questioned the reliability of the nation’s electronic voting system.
At one point he said he possessed proof of fraud, though he provided no evidence.
Last month, he remarked that if he did not win in the election’s first round, something was ‘abnormal’ – even as most polls showed him trailing.
One meme that went viral earlier Monday featured a picture of a vaguely disoriented-looking Bolsonaro, with the caption, ‘Missing: elderly man, very talkative, has not been heard from in 12 hours.’
Pro-Bolsonaro truckers have set up roadblocks throughout the country to protest Lula’s return to power. Some truckers posted videos calling for a military coup
Supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro protest for intervention by the armed forces outside of a military command facility in Sao Paulo on October 31
Truckers – who have benefited from Bolsonaro lowering diesel costs – are one of the president’s key constituencies, and they have been known to disrupt Brazil’s economy when they shut down highways
Charismatic but tarnished ex-president Lula defeated Bolsonaro by the narrowest margin in Brazil’s modern history – 50.9 percent to 49.1 percent – to return for an unprecedented third term.
Pro-Bolsonaro truckers and protesters have blocked highways in at least 11 states across the country, burning tires and parking vehicles in the middle of the road to halt traffic.
Wearing the yellow and green of the Brazilian flag – which the outgoing president has adopted as his own – the protesters wielded pro-Bolsonaro signs and sang the national anthem, before gradually being broken up by the authorities in some areas.
On Monday night Judge Alexander de Moraes of the Supreme Court ordered police to disperse the blockades immediately.
He was acting in response to a request by a transport federation that complained it was losing business.
Supporters of president-elect Luiz listen to his speech at the Paulista avenue after his victory on the presidential runoff election
A demonstrator waves a Brazilian flag as truck drivers and supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro block a road
Some key Bolsonaro allies have publicly recognized his loss, including the powerful speaker of the lower house of Congress, Arthur Lira.
And international congratulations for Lula poured in from the US, China, India, France, Britain, South Africa and numerous others.
Lula, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, criticized his nemesis Sunday night for not acknowledging the result.
‘Anyplace else in the world, the defeated president would have called me to recognize his defeat,’ he said in his victory speech to a euphoric sea of red-clad supporters in Sao Paulo.
The ex-metalworker, making his return from controversial, since-quashed corruption charges that sent him to prison for 18 months, vowed to work for ‘peace and unity’ in the divided nation.
Easier said than done, according to political analysts.
‘It was a very narrow victory (that left) half the population unhappy,’ said political scientist Leandro Consentino of Insper university in Sao Paulo.
‘Lula will have to show a lot of political skill to pacify the country.’