BRASILIA/SAO PAULO, Nov 1 (Reuters) – Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro avoided conceding defeat on Tuesday in his first public speech since losing Sunday’s election, saying the protests since then were the product of “anger and a sense of injustice”.
His chief of staff, Ciro Nogueira, spoke after Bolsonaro’s brief address, saying Bolsonaro had given him permission to begin a transition process with representatives of leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
It took more than 44 hours for Bolsonaro to make his first public statement since the election was decided by electoral authorities, making him Brazil’s first president to lose re-election. He still hasn’t spoken to Lula.
During his silence, supporters blocked highways to protest his defeat, with some calling for a military coup to stop former president Lula from returning to power. Bolsonaro’s delay in recognizing Lula’s election has raised concerns that he will contest the narrow election results.
In a minutes-long national address on Tuesday, Bolsonaro thanked Brazilians who voted for him and reiterated the country’s adherence to the constitution, which calls for a change of power on January 1.
He called the demonstrations a “people’s movement” and said they should avoid destroying property or “obstructing the right to come and go.”
That may not be enough to quell protests by small groups of his supporters in Brazil, who have started economic disruptions, including farm and retail groups calling on Bolsonaro to begin the transition.
Close political allies, including his chief of staff and Vice President Hamilton Mourao, began contacting the Lula camp to discuss the transition. Others, including the speaker of the lower house of Congress, called on Bolsonaro’s government to respect the election results.
The powerful agricultural lobby CNA, which represents farmers who are important campaign donors for Bolsonaro, said it was open to talks with the government, which will take office on January 1.
Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Bolsonaro repeatedly made baseless claims that the electoral system was open to fraud and accused electoral authorities of favoring his left-wing rival.
Lula’s victory marks a remarkable comeback for the 77-year-old former metallurgist, who spent 19 months in prison before his corruption convictions were overturned last year.
Lula has vowed to reverse many of Bolsonaro’s policies, including pro-gun measures and weak protection of the Amazon rainforest.
Reporting by Ricardo Brito, Marcela Ayres and Anthony Boadle in Brazil, Brian Ellsworth, Nayara Figuereido and Gabriel Araujo in Sao Paulo; Edited by Brad Haynes, Paul Simao and Alistair Bell
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