The number of weekly murders in the capital of the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, Salvador, since the beginning of a strike by the Military Police, on February 1, has doubled, rising from 41 to 83. During the same period, robberies rose from 78 to 150.
State authorities have called the strike illegal and refused to grant an amnesty to the strikers. At least 12 arrest warrants against leaders of the strike movement have been issued, but there are reports of only one arrest.
The striking policemen are demanding a career plan, a gratification and salary increase (the government is offering a 6.5% pay increase), besides a general amnesty for participants in the movement. After camping out in front of the state Legislative Assembly, over the weekend they invaded the building.
The state Secretary of Security says the number of police on strike is only around 30% of the 30,000 the state has. But, the secretary adds that due to certain characteristics it is believed that striking policemen are participating in the crimewave that has hit the city.
Striking policemen, wearing masks, disrupted traffic in the center of the city causing panic among residents.
The federal government has responded by sending in the Army. Over the weekend the number of army troops in Salvador reached 3,500.
An army lieutenant colonel told reporters that the biggest problem, caused by the uncertainty, was a wave of rumors sweeping the urban center.
He explained that his men, along with Military Police and Civil Police not on strike, were on the streets to ensure the population that authority was being maintained and that their security was being taken care of.
Beside the soldiers, there are four combat vehicles, Urutus, that are circulating in the city helping to maintains order.
The latest news from Salvador is that some 600 soldiers have surrounded the Legislative Assembly to serve arrest warrants on the leaders of the strike movement.
The action of evacuation of the Legislative Assembly was marked by confrontation this Monday. Family of the military police who are on strike wanting to join the campers quarreled with Army soldier more than once.
The confrontation happens as the striking group tries to break through the siege by the Army, National Force and Federal Police but is prevented by a human chain formed by men from the Army’s Battalion of Shock. Rubber bullets were fired and pepper gas thrown. One protester was wounded in the foot.