RIO DE JANEIRO, May 26 (Xinhua) -- The Brazilian government on Saturday denounced a "lockout" as being behind protests by thousands of truckers which have paralyzed Brazilian highways since Monday.
President Michel Temer met with a number of ministers to analyze the situation on Saturday, a day after ordering the army and police to clear the highways.
In a televised address on Friday, Temer said that "I have ordered security forces to unblock the highways and I am asking governors to do the same. We will not let the population go without its primary needs."
Carlos Marun, the secretary of government, told the press on Saturday that "we are convinced there is a lockout. The federal police has opened investigations to verify these suspicions. The suspected executives will be interrogated. The police has already issued arrest warrants and is awaiting judicial approval."
A lockout takes place when business owners use their employees' demands to serve their own commercial interests.
The truckers are staging a massive protest to demand a drop in the price of fuel and their blockades have frozen much of the country. In Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other major cities, supermarkets reported being without food and pharmacies were running out of medicine.
On Saturday, the police reported that at least 544 blockade points had been broken up while 596 blockades remained, "they are mostly partial and do not stop the freedom of movement."
Marun said the government had already begun to apply fines of 100,000 reais (around 27,300 U.S. dollars) per hour to the owners of transport companies if their trucks do not return to work.
The government vowed to remove one of the taxes on the sale of diesel fuel, while national oil company Petrobras vowed to reduce the price of diesel by 10 percent at refineries within 15 days.
However, the Association of Brazilian Truck Drivers rejected these moves as insufficient.