RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s elections chief ordered the head of the country’s highway police to answer allegations that he had ordered traffic stops, particularly of buses transporting voters to the polls, in an effort to suppress turnout in Sunday’s presidential election.
There were dozens of reports on social media on Sunday that federal highway agents were stopping vehicles and questioning people in several states across Brazil. Such stops appeared to violate orders from election officials on Saturday to halt any traffic stops on Election Day that could hinder people’s efforts to vote.
Alexandre de Moraes, a Supreme Court justice who leads Brazil’s election agency, issued an order to the head of Brazil’s federal highway police, calling on the official to provide proof that his officers were not violating election rules to benefit President Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right incumbent.
In the order, Mr. Moraes included a link to a tweet from a person claiming that the highway police had set up a roadblock in the northeastern city of Cuité and were not letting people pass. “It’s already driving away the population of the countryside!” the tweet said. Brazil’s northeast is a leftist stronghold.
On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Moraes told reporters that election officials’ initial investigation found that the stops delayed the buses, but they all still reached their intended polling stations. “We didn’t have any voters who didn’t vote because of the operations,” he said.
Silvinei Vasques, the highway police chief, responded to Mr. Moraes’s order to halt Election Day traffic stops, saying that the highway police would not target public buses. But, he added, the police would continue to conduct stops because, he said, Mr. Moraes’s order did not apply to all federal highway operations.
As of Sunday afternoon, the federal highway police had stopped more than 550 buses across the country, according to a federal highway officer with access to internal data who spoke on condition of anonymity. On Sunday, Oct. 2, in the first round of voting, the highway police stopped nearly 300 buses, according to the officer.
A post on Mr. Vasques’s official Instagram account on Saturday urged people to vote for Mr. Bolsonaro, according to O Globo, one of Brazil’s biggest newspapers. The kind of message he posted automatically disappears from Instagram after 24 hours and was no longer visible on Sunday. Mr. Vazques had previously posted various photos with Mr. Bolsonaro.
Thomas Thaler, 45, a computer programmer, said his wife gave up on voting after her bus got stuck in traffic and then was stopped by highway police on the way to vote in Recife, a large city on Brazil’s northeastern coast. She eventually exited the bus and took a different bus back home. She said she had planned to vote for Mr. da Silva.
Jessica Sousa, 22, a student, said she was stuck in traffic near Cuité in Brazil’s northeast and then eventually questioned by the highway police, who requested her I.D. and asked about her plans. She eventually managed to get to a polling station and vote for Mr. da Silva.
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