Brazil truckers strike begins with no impact on transit

SAO PAULO, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Traffic was flowing freely on Monday morning on all of Brazil’s highways, the government said, on the first day of a planned truckers strike that raised fears of a repeat of a 2018 protest that snarled roadways and depleted store shelves.

The Infrastructure Ministry, in a series of tweets citing highway patrol police around Brazil, said that on all federal roadways as of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. there was free flow of vehicles without holdups.

Truckers had stopped two lanes of traffic near the Sao Paulo suburb of Barueri, although other lanes continued to allow cars to pass, news website UOL reported, saying no other roads in Sao Paulo state were blocked.

A senior union leader told Reuters on Friday that truckers were divided over a strike, predicting that there would not be major stoppages.

President Jair Bolsonaro had appealed to truckers not to strike, saying the government was looking for ways to lower fuel prices.

The memory of the 2018 strike over high diesel prices remains fresh in Brazil, when roadways were paralyzed for weeks leading food, medicine and other essentials to dwindle on store shelves.

The government settled that strike by establishing minimum freight prices. Some truckers are now saying that those prices are too low, although the minimums have also caused frictions with Brazil’s powerful farm lobby by raising transport costs for agricultural products. (Reporting by Luciano Costa, additional reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)