Lula, Bolsonaro teams to start Brazil power transition

Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's advisers will meet government officials Thursday to start the power transition, as supporters of incumbent Jair Bolsonaro continue loud -- albeit shrinking -- protests against his election loss.

Brazil has been on edge since veteran leftist Lula's narrow win Sunday over far-right incumbent Bolsonaro, who remained silent for two days as angry supporters blocked highways across the country, calling for a military intervention to keep him in power.

However, the road blockades have been losing strength.

Officials said there were 74 of them Thursday, down from 250 Tuesday, after Bolsonaro issued an appeal to "unblock the roads" to avoid damaging the economy and interfering with people's right to move freely.

But although the ex-army captain has vowed to respect the constitution, he has not acknowledged Lula's win or congratulated him. He encouraged "legitimate demonstrations" in a video posted online Wednesday night -- raising fears Brazil may still face turbulent times until Lula is sworn in on January 1, and beyond.

Vice president-elect Geraldo Alckmin, whom Lula has picked to lead his transition team, will hold a first meeting with Bolsonaro's cabinet chief, Ciro Nogueira, Thursday afternoon in the capital, Brasilia, both teams told AFP.

The head of Lula's Workers' Party (PT), Gleisi Hoffmann, and the transition team's technical coordinator, Aloizio Mercadante, will also be present, media reports said.

Lula, 77, who previously led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, won an unprecedented third term Sunday, capping a remarkable comeback for the ex-metalworker three years after he was freed from prison on controversial, since-quashed corruption convictions.

Bolsonaro supporters reacted furiously, blocking highways with cars, trucks, and tractors and rallying outside military barracks to demand an intervention.

Federal highway police said there were still full or partial roadblocks in eight of Brazil's 27 states Thursday. They have broken up 862 others, they said.

In Rio de Janeiro, a protest outside a local military base had dwindled to several dozen people, who appeared to be losing hope of a pro-Bolsonaro intervention.

"We're going to have a communist dictatorship," 31-year-old protester Jessica dos Santos Ferreira told AFP, calling Lula a "thief."