Brazil: Bahia Is in State of Siege with Police on Strike and Criminals Roaming Streets

Military police on strike in Bahia Shopping Iguatemi, the most popular shopping center in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 3rd floor in front of Mc Donald’s. I close my laptop while my two small children start fighting each other as usual. I tell them to stop. Finally they do. I put my laptop in the case. All at a sudden my wife starts shouting. “Let’s run, get a kid and run, now”.

For a second I don’t understand what’s happening. I turn myself around and then I can the commotion. A wave of people running, shouting, the terror in their eyes while they come in our direction knocking down everything in front of them: tables, chairs, advertising signs. The throng is out of control: they are hundreds creating a human tsunami that destroys everything in its path.

I grab my little kid and run with him in my arms just to the bottom end of McDonalds. The wave slowly stops while people still seem to be panicky. I hide my family behind an advertising panel. And then people apparently terrified start asking the same question: What’s happening?

Welcome to the arrastão (dragnet), a hellish Brazilian experience which has become a common occurrence in Bahia. A group of criminals, from a couple to dozens of them, hiding their faces with masks start running in any public place like a beach or a shopping center. In their race they steal purses and whatever they can get, pushing everybody and creating a tsunami of panic that can do more damage than the arrastão itself.

The arrastão described here happened while the local military police is on strike asking for better salaries in a very tough confrontation with the Government of Bahia. The situation is so serious that the Legislative Assembly has been under siege for a few days now by the striking policemen.

The government of Bahia, on the other hand, has asked the Federal government to send federal troops to help contain the situation.

In the interior of the state the situation is even worse. In the city of Feira de Santana, for example, the situation is so bad that the bus drivers went on strike fearing for their life. In Itabuna businesses close their doors afraid they might be assaulted.

It’s a climate of civil war. Thursday three other shopping areas were invaded by mob in the neighborhoods of Caixa d’Água, Liberdade and Comércio, all in Salvador, which is the capital of Bahia. Shops closed earlier throughout the city.

Since the government of Bahia has decided not to negotiate with the  strikers some of them took over buses that were place in middle of main roads of Salvador, stopping the traffic. 

Criminals in need of replenishing their weapons arsenal threatened this Friday to invade the police station in Liberdade.

The situation is very tense just a few days before the Carnaval of Bahia, one of the most famous in the world. Forecasts are that  Carnaval this year will be very hot but not for the weather.

It’s ironic that a few weeks ago I sent a request to the Cabinet of Bahia’s Governor of Bahia for an interview about the security of the state after reports the violence in Bahia is bigger than in Rio de Janeiro.

I got no reply. Foreign reporters don’t get much attention in Bahia despite the fact that the governor Jaques Wagner is a very friendly guy. His aides, however, don’t seem to care for the press.

Bahia is always a wonderful land with the best Carnaval in the world. No doubt about that. However a change is needed in the approach to this police strike because the politics of confrontation is making things dangerously worse for the population and the tourists.

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


  • Show Comments (12)

  • beats by dre outlet
    You completed certain good points there. I did a search on the theme and found mainly people will agree with your blog.

  • Gringo Dingo

    It’s amazing the excuses being made for the violence. 1000 people dead in 5 days and folks are saying ” everything is normal”. Normal if you’re a little diseased in the head.

    Canada’s largest capital has less that that over a YEAR. And now the cops in rio are taking a cue for Bahia. One of Brazil’s biggest problems is the fools who always accept the worst of this country, meaning nothing will ever change.

  • Sharif

    I’m an American here in Salvador with my family. I agree with what istheman said. It’s dangerous but I’m a normal person, in other words I don’t buy/sell drugs or do any other stupid thing that would place me in harms way. We are pretty much safe. I don’t have any scary story to share about the strike. Oh yeah while riding through town I did see troops riding along the coast and posted up with their guns.
    The tourists that are hear are still braving it and going out and enjoying the beach.

    Brazil definitely needs to clean this mess up though. This is a horrible look for the country internationally and another self imposed black eye that stains the image of Brazil.

  • istheman

    Or perhaps “swarm,” which has been used in English to describe the same behaviour–as in “swarming.”

  • adrianerik

    “arrastão” is better defined in English as a “wolf pack” than “dragnet”. A dragnet has the sense of a widespread, but carefully and slowly executed search to find a specific target. In America, a “wolf pack” is a hastily organized mob who are reckless and by force of numbers, grab and destroy anything in their path, such as the 15 to 30 youths who will race across Copacabana Beach, grabbing as much as they can before disappearing.

  • Conrad Black

    Cancel FIFA 2014 for Salvador
    If this can happen now then it can happen again !. FIFA should cancel the Salvador venue and teach these scum a lesson they will never forget. Now if Rio goes out on strike then cancel the Olimpics as well. Still not a serious country !

  • istheman

    Utter crap
    an somebody please stop this idiot from writing this crap. Salvador is not pleasant at the moment, but most of it is nowhere near what this idiot is describing. I was at the supermarket yesterday, which was nowhere near full and was fully stocked. I took money out of an ATM to pay for my purchases. I walked down my street. I am still alive and well.
    Funny how this so-called investigative journalist just happens to be where everything is happening, isn’t is? A few days ago he was in the middle of an “arrastão.” Then in a later article he claims to hear murder threats in his current article. Then later he writes as if as if he was in Salvador, Feira de Santana and Itabuna in the same day.
    I’m a former newspaper editor. I know bulls**t when I see it, and this reporting has all the hallmarks of fantasy. I do not believe this so-called reporter has witnessed what he claims to witness. Brazzil is doing reporting a disservice by publishing this crap.
    Yes, Salvador is dangerous and in the middle of a police strike. Even when there is no police strike, Salvador is dangerous. But beyond that, there is little truth in this person’s reporting.

  • Gustavo Aquino

    perigo policia em greve
    Carnival in Bahia is very dangerous to avoid coming to the bay.

  • Geovânia

    Help,life is impossible this way!

  • Ana Souza


  • Marcos

    Os Policiais Militares da Bahia assim como a sociedade Baiana pedem socorro aos grupos de direitos humanos do mundo, pois vivemos um clima de ditadura e guerra. Enquanto o Governador esta em seu gabinete a população esta sofrendo arrastões, saques em loja e até aumento das mortes.

  • ailton Reis

    o nome dele é…
    Jacks Kadafi Wagner

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