Brazil's Bolsonaro doesn't publicly concede election in speech, but staff says transition to begin

Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro broke his silence for the first time publicly since the election, saying he has always followed the constitution, but did not concede he lost to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Sunday's runoff vote.

Chief of staff says country will begin process of transition to Lula government

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, shown speaking to reporters at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, the country's capital, on Tuesday, avoided conceding defeat to leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in his first public remarks since Sunday's vote. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

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, saying 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.

It took Bolsonaro more than 44 hours to make his first public remarks since the election was decided by electoral authorities, making him the first Brazilian president to lose a re-election bid. He has still not spoken with Lula.

Amid his silence, supporters blocked highways to protest his defeat, with some calling for a military coup to stop Lula, a former president, from returning to power. Bolsonaro's delay in recognizing Lula's election raised fears that he would contest the narrow result of the election.

The highway blockades have disrupted fuel distribution, supermarket supplies and the flow of grains exports to major ports, according to industry groups.

Federal highway police officers stand by on Tuesday as supporters of Bolsonaro block highway BR-251 in Planaltina, Brazil, during a protest against the results of the election run-off vote. (Diego Vara/Reuters)

In his brief national address, Bolsonaro joked that journalists would miss him, thanked those who voted for him and said he would abide by the constitution, which stipulates a transition of power on Jan. 1.

"The current popular movements are the fruit of indignation and a sense of injustice about the way the electoral process took place," he said.

He said protesters should avoid destroying property or "impeding the right to come and go," but did not tell them to go home.

"Bolsonaro has not put out this fire. He spoke to his hardcore supporters without criticizing the demonstrators on the highways," said political risk analyst Andre Cesar at Hold Legislative Advisors in Brasilia.

"He is keeping his more extremist followers mobilized."

Court orders protesters be removed

Bolsonaro's chief of staff and Vice-President Hamilton Mourao have begun to make contact with the Lula camp to discuss a transition. Other allies, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, have called since Sunday for the Bolsonaro government to respect the election result.

In a statement, Brazil's Supreme Court said it considered that, by authorizing the government transition, Bolsonaro was recognizing the result of the election.

Before Sunday's vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made baseless claims that the electoral system was open to fraud and accused electoral authorities of favouring his adversary

Earlier Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered police to remove the scores of roadblocks set up by Bolsonaro's supporters.

The Federal Highway Police (PRF) said truckers were blocking highways at 271 points, partially or fully, as part of protests that have spread to 23 of Brazil's 26 states in the wake of Bolsonaro's loss to da Silva. The police said another 192 roadblocks had been cleared.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes called on the PRF to remove all of the blockades, which have been mainly organized by truckers — a core constituency of the Bolsonaro government that has benefited from its lowering of diesel costs.

Moraes was quickly joined by six other justices in a virtual session in the early hours of Tuesday as they formed a majority in the 11-member court to back his decision, setting fines on the PRF's director-general, Silvinei Vasques, if he failed to act to clear the roadblocks.

WATCH | Scenes and sounds from the blockade sites:

Brazilian truckers block roads to support Bolsonaro

3 months ago
Duration 0:43
Truckers in Brazil are blocking roads or highways in many states to show support for Jair Bolsonaro, who lost Sunday's presidential election run-off to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Bolsonaro has not conceded the election.

Some truckers posted videos calling for a military coup to stop the man familiarly known as Lula, a leftist who served as Brazil's president from 2003 to 2010, from taking office.

The highways that have been blocked included key roads used to move grains from farm states to ports, as well as a major road linking the two largest cities. The Brazilian supermarkets' lobby reported supply problems and appealed to Bolsonaro to resolve the situation before shop shelves begin to empty.

Transition talks begin between officials

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 cancelled, the airport said. But Gov. 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, referring to Lula, whose 2003-2010 presidency was marked by widespread corruption.

"We are not moving until that bandit is stopped from assuming as president."

Although Bolsonaro remained silent on his election loss until Tuesday, his political allies and associates had begun to establish contact with the Lula camp to discuss a transition. Some had publicly declared that the Bolsonaro government should respect the election result.

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.

Environmentalists and sustainable investors cheered Lula's victory and his commitment to protecting the rainforest and restoring Brazil's leadership on climate change.

World leaders congratulate Lula

Even before he is due to take office on Jan. 1, 2023, president-elect Lula will send representatives to next month's COP27 United Nations climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, allied environmentalist Marina Silva said on Monday.

The Supreme Electoral Court declared Lula won 50.9 per cent of votes, against 49.1 per cent for Bolsonaro, who becomes the first Brazilian incumbent to lose a presidential election.

"I will govern for 215 million Brazilians, and not just for those who voted for me," Lula said at his campaign headquarters. "We are one country, one people, one great nation."

Scenes from Sunday's election: 

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez flew to Sao Paulo to meet Lula on Monday and hailed "a new era for the history of Latin America. A time of hope and future that begins today."

Several world leaders sent their congratulations to Lula on the result.

"The people of Brazil have spoken. I'm looking forward to working with @LulaOficial to strengthen the partnership between our countries, to deliver results for Canadians and Brazilians, and to advance shared priorities — like protecting the environment," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said after the results became official.

U.S. President Joe Biden characterized he election as "free, fair and credible."