Brazilian police on Wednesday dispersed striking truckers to reopen access to the country's main port of Santos but the protesters' stoppage still gripped a broad swathe of the nation where most farming and industry are concentrated.
As the strike entered its second week restricting fuel supplies in some areas of the country, the government prepared to meet protesters at the negotiating table though it rejected a key trucker demand to reduce the price of diesel fuel.
Santos police forced truckers to clear the highway but said they were maintaining a strong presence on the road for fear that protesters planned to return Wednesday afternoon.
Brazilian truck drivers have been blocking roads for eight days, in protest over high fuel and toll prices, poor road quality and changes to rules governing drivers. The protests have interrupted supplies of diesel and raw materials across the country and threatened to hold up grains exports at ports during a record harvest.
Rota do Oeste, the company that runs the main highway in Brazil's leading soybean state of Mato Grosso where the trucker protest started on Feb. 18, said trucks continue parked along the shoulders in several cities of the state on Wednesday.
Brazil's attorney general said on Monday it would begin issuing fines of 100,000 reais ($35,000) to truckers or logistics companies that block vehicles in protest areas.
The threat has had little effect however, as the protest spread into more than 10 of Brazil's 26 states, though some roads that were totally blocked by more aggressive strikers have been opened to the flow of traffic.
It is concentrated in the south-central part of the country.
Trucks breaking the strike and driving through protest points are still potential targets of vandals in the grain belt.
"If a trucker decides to run a road block to deliver his load, guys run alongside his trailer and pull the drop gates so soybeans run out" onto the ground, said Kory Melby, an American agricultural consultant living in Brazil, in a report.
Representatives of the protest are due to meet with government officials at the Transport Ministry at 2 p.m. (1700 GMT) Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesman Miguel Rossetto announced on Tuesday afternoon that the government is open to discussing loan extensions, alterations in regulations governing the sector and norms for setting freight rates.
But he added that the government "is not planning to reduce the price of diesel."