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Brazil: After One Week and Over 100 Murders Still no End in Sight for Bahia's Police Strike PDF Print E-mail
2012 - February 2012
Written by Max Bono   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 03:41

Police strike Side street of a residential area of a city of Bahia.  Mountains of trash grow day by day under the very hot tropical sun. The trash has not been collected since Saturday and rats run freely in the streets.

Walking down the road the atmosphere is tense. Nobody is in the street. Yesterday it was much better. People seemed to have forgotten the tension and were walking freely. But when they woke up the mountains of trash revealed a sad reality: the bad times are not over.

I went to the bakery and asked the owner what he thought about it. He answered: "I do not know. It cannot be the arrastão (flash mob robbery). Are the robbers going to rob the rubbish?" A loud laugh broke the tension and we all felt better.

But the answer was a clear sign: tension runs still very high in Bahia. By the way, at 5 pm the bakery store used to be always very full and you had to wait quite a bit to be served. Not these days. It is always empty now. Nobody wants to stay too long in the streets.

Ivete Sangalo wrote in her twitter account: "What a wonderful day today is." But the tension is high and people responded harshly to her cheerfulness: "maybe for you, maybe in your mansion not for normal people in the streets of Salvador."

Meanwhile at the Legislative Assembly some of the human shields, children, as the Brazilian Minister for human rights Maria do Rosário defined them, were let go. But some are still joining the striking policemen.

The situation inside the Assembly building  is quite bad. No water, no electricity, no food. Because of the presence of the kids inside some water and bread was offered to the insurgents. But the tactic of the Army is quite clear: to give  nothing the rioters  until they surrender.

Negotiations between the two sides have been going on with the mediation of the Archbishop of Salvador don Dom Murilo Sebastião Ramos Krieger. Whoever calls what's happening in Bahia a normal strike for a pay increase would be considered crazy here. There's an ongoing fight for power, but at least the negotiations started.

However the situation is so bad that even the American State Department advised American citizens not to go to Bahia these days.

Tribunals, schools, and other public activities are paralyzed. More than 100 people have been murdered. Meanwhile the governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, said he does not have the money the insurgents want. Which means he might have to ask the Federal government to help pay the bill to end the strike.

There is also a contagion risk. The Rio de Janeiro police have already made it clear that any attack against the Bahia police would cause an anticipation of their own strike.

Meanwhile, Marco Prisco, the head of the police unions, has friends in many police forces in Brazil. Prisco supported similar campaigns for pay rises in Rondônia, Alagoas and other Brazilian states. He is popular and smart.

The contagion risk is serious especially because the military police is seriously underpaid in Brazil and their request for pay rise is legitimate. What's not legitimate is for them to use children as human shields to reach this objective.

Rio de Janeiro state's secretary of security, José Mariano Beltrame already made it clear that security will be guaranteed during the strike of Rio police. However if the contagion spreads to the whole of Brazil the situation might run out of control.

This is why governor Wagner is pushing very hard to end this strike as quickly as possible. Brasília is not rushing for a federal solution as  Romero Jucá, government leader in the Brazilian Senate, declared that the constitutional change required for adopting a national salary for the police won't be voted in 2012.

In the meantime the reintegration to the police force of Prisco and other 4 people is also part of the negotiations. Prisco was exonerated in 2001 during the previous riot of the police in Salvador and never got back his job.

Max Bono is an investigative journalist traveling in Brazil.  You can contact him at

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Comments (10)Add Comment
Toys for the boys while 'military` police on strike?
written by DU 48, February 08, 2012
The crunch may come on Friday when police in Rio also decide whether to strike for better pay.

What a state of affairs- when the police system in Brazil needs to be completely overhauled, not least reunification of civil and so called military police who are being called mutineers by politicians.

What kind of signal does this send, for example, when Santa Catarina state deputies get given tablets costing in total 116,000 Reais and vereadores in Blumenau get a 35% pay increase?,deputados-estaduais-de-sc-ganham-tablets-na-volta-ao-trabalho,832727,0.htm
written by nicholas (us_male), February 08, 2012
DU 48,

You need to understand that Security (State Military Police/Civil Police) is a State issue, not Federal.

States where the police complains about salaries must get their act together so they can pay them better. In my opinion this issues comes back to a subject that Brazil as whole needs to fix..TAX REFORM.
written by asp, February 08, 2012
guess ill weigh in ....

im concerned about the strike dynamic going on throughout brazil

but, make no mistake, i think workers should be getting salaries that reflect the inflation and price gouging going on

what i wonder and maybe someone can make me understand, why cant there be some high up judiciary process that would force both partites to the table to come to solutions within 48 hours ?

of course it has to be seperate from the government because the government is often on the other end of the strike...

it just seems that it turns into a bad game everywhere and only the people suffer for nothing...

yes, workers deserve fair pay, they deserve to strike and bring greivances to the table, but, by god, some hand of higher authority needs to be established to end these strikes in 48 hours at the most

the haggling game on both sides and the unwillingness to not wrap it up and just extend it while everyone else is suffering, is bs

by the way, anyone remember the scenes a while back of the sao paulo police on strike and the military police forming a defense position in the street and it just looked like bloody is somewhat disturbing to see police against police...

its also funny, from remembering police strikes in the past in brazil, the thing that happens is that, in the poor comunities who are asumed at odds with the police, in a police strike, the bodies pile up in the poor comunities, because the rich pay for private security
written by Lk, February 09, 2012
crazy times, this year the things are worst than never
Sao Paulo Ministerio Publico manages to halt 200% increase for top level civil servants!
written by DU 48, February 09, 2012
When you see what these white collar civil servants are out to get, hardly surprising is it that police and firefghters are fed up with their working conditions.,justica-suspende-aumento-de-200-para-subprefeitos-de-sao-paulo,833161,0.htm

Tax reform? Brazil has been waiting for YEARS -nobody has the balls to do it.
Police unification? Ditto. Goes back to the dictatorship. Yes, there have been attempts to bring about change but ran out of steam.

Public accountability and voto distrital ja!
@asp Pois e' (exactly)
written by adrianerik, February 10, 2012
The people (at least in Bahia) are tormented, strike or no strike. In general, there is no love for the PM in Salvador. The respect varies, bairro by bairro. In Pelourinho and Santo Antonio, where the police mostly walk the streets and know the residents, they have a more respectful attitude towards the residents. This is not just due to the reality of tourists intermingling with residents. There are many squatters in that area and they still have a degree of respect for the citizens. It ends many of the communities the police go about as an occupying force. Any house can be invaded with guns pointed in the face of your family without so much as an 'excuse me'. Everyone could be cursed, slapped, hit, pushed with the attitude that "you're guilty until proven innocent". And guilt, in many cases is proven by a young man who does not have a job. In the States, you are just an unemployed youth, in Salvador, you are a likely criminal, marginal (interesting word).

However, the twin monster to the police are that segment of the society who ARE criminals and prey upon community. They create a climate of fear far worse than the police, a climate of fear the seeps into nearly every aspect of your life. You can't say that one is better and the other is worse...the people have to choose death and insults and threats either is a choice between a firing squad and lethal injection.

The funny thing is that my friends, who don't like the police, mostly support the demands of the police for a better salary. Their issue is that the police, just like the transit workers when they strike, treat the people as their enemy. And while, law enforcement workers probably need to earn more than 2000 reais a month, anyone taking the bus in Salvador probably earns less than half that a month.

I believe that public segments such as police, firefighters and health workers are "public trusts" and should be vigorously prohibited from striking. I almost believe in the Ronald Reagan approach, to fire, em masse, anyone who violates that trust. (which would probably create a small army of ex-police criminals). Along with that, there should be, as in the States, a third party mandatory arbiter who has access to the budget and the power to determine a just solution.

IMHO! But, what do I know?
us state dept warns americans about travel to brazil ...
written by american superiority, February 10, 2012
whats this? chaos and anarchy in brazil?...criminals roaming the streets murders and robberies? isn,t this really a typical day in Brazil...And to think brazil is going to host olympic games ...the world once again is shown Brazil is a non-country ,a corrupt ,crime infested swamp ...any sane person would avoid brazil like the plague.. but what is really troubling to americans is allowing brazilians to obtain a tourist visa to the usa to commit crimes in our own communities . Especially in light of the fact that the majority of brazilian nationals in the usa are illegal.....of course with obama facing a stunning defeat in his pathetic attempt at getting re-elected its certain that illegals in the usa are going to be returning to their countries of origin or be facing arrest and deportation
@ superior psycho
written by nicholas (usa_male), February 10, 2012
As usual you haven't taken your med. Our healthcare fails you and that is an embarresment, but since you're unemployed and frustrated there is a job for you at the TSA. A psycho like you will love it.
third world punk and coward
written by american ultra superiority, February 14, 2012
go f-ing eat crap donkey cart jockey ..where do you get off with your inflated sence of self you f**king delusional misfit .. you,re a f-ing coward can,t dispute with fact one thing i said..f-ing moron .your nothing !!...your inconsequential and nothing more than a peculiar oddball with a inferiority complex .
nicholas so your a gay toilet cleaner in an airport and you have no documents..and you don,t know the language.
written by american ultra superiority, February 14, 2012
could you elaborate:

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