Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday that he would respect the country’s constitution ending 45 hours of silence following his defeat in Sunday’s presidential election.
But Mr Bolsonaro did not explicitly recognise the victory of former left-wing president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known simply as Lula) and instead referred to unspecified “injustices” in the electoral process in a statement at his presidential residence in Brasília that lasted just three minutes.
It fell to his cabinet chief Ciro Nogueira to confirm Bolsonaro had authorised him to start talks with Lula’s team over the transition process.
The president’s statement came as pressure mounted on him to recognise his defeat and call for an end to roadblocks on hundreds of highways across the country by his supporters demanding a military coup following his defeat on Sunday.
In it Mr Bolsonaro said the protests were “the fruit of indignation and a sentiment of injustice at the electoral process unfolded” but said his supporters should not adopt the methods of the left and “close off the right to come and go”.
Support for Mr Bolsonaro has been slipping away since Sunday as a growing number of his political allies recognise Lula’s victory and call for calm as the blockades caused transport chaos across the country and start to threaten supplies of food, medicines and fuel.
Mr Bolsonaro’s statement came shortly after 186 federal prosecutors demanded that the country’s chief federal prosecutor and close Bolsonaro ally Augusto Aras open an investigation into the president over the roadblocks and his failure to take action.
[ President Higgins invites Brazil’s Lula to visit Ireland ]
Responding to official inaction and the silence of the president as the protests spread the supreme court ordered police to lift the roadblocks during a session in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
In ordering the lifting of the blockades supreme court justice Alexandre de Moraes criticised the “omission and inertia” of the federal highway police and threatened to fine its director-general Silvinei Vasques 100,000 reais (€20,000) an hour if the force failed to comply.
The highway police were widely criticised after videos circulated of its officers fraternising with protesters. The force was central to a voter suppression effort on Sunday in regions that traditionally lean heavily towards Lula.
It is the federal security unit most closely identified with Mr Bolsonaro. On Saturday Mr Vasques called on voters to support the president in a post on social media which he quickly deleted.
Following the supreme court intervention police across Brazil moved to end many of the roadblocks to little resistance. Before then passengers and cabin crews missed flights from the main international airport in São Paulo after supporters of the defeated president blocked its main access road.
At least 25 flights were cancelled before police forced an end to the protest. The unrest also hit the main bus terminal in Rio de Janeiro with many routes suspended.