In Rio, the military police together with the civilian police and firefighters, a total of about 70,000 men, decided to go on strike starting Friday, February 10, one week before the beginning of the Carnaval festivities, which bring tourists from all over Brazil and the world.
Among the main demands are the creation of a base salary of 3500 reais (US$ 2,040) a month and the release of Corporal firefighter Benevenuto Dalciolo, arrested Wednesday night, after returning from Salvador, where he was helping the striking policemen of Bahia.
The meeting that led to the decision to go on strike lasted sis hours. The concentration in Cinelândia, in front of the City Council, started around 5 pm and the decision to strike was taken at 11,21 pm, when about 1,500 participants, according to organizers, voted in favor of a strike, by acclamation.
The leaders recommended that everyone should go back to their police station or place of work and refuse to leave to the streets.
The Secretary for Civil Defense and Fire Brigade commander, Colonel Sérgio Simões, announced in the afternoon that the Army had made available 14,000 troops to patrol the state. There should an extra 300 men from the National Security Force to work in the services provided by the firefighters.
With the proximity of the Carnaval, which starts on Friday of next week, the concern is to ensure safety to the thousands of tourists who come to Rio for the big party.
According to the firefighters commander the Carnaval celebration will go on with the federal security forces and those policemen not participating in the strike.
Hundreds of striking police officers ended their 10-day occupation of a state assembly house in Salvador, Brazil’s third-biggest city, easing tensions in a walkout that unleashed a bloody crime wave and threatened upcoming Carnaval celebrations.
It was unclear, however, whether the decision by 245 striking police and family members to leave the assembly building would lead to an end to the strike itself. Strikers were expected to meet to decide whether their work stoppage would continue.
In addition to disrupting preparations and scaring off visitors ahead of next week’s Carnaval festivities, the job action has raised doubts about security in Brazil ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
About 20% of the 31.00 police officers in Bahia, the northeastern state of which Salvador is the capital, walked off their jobs on January 31. The stoppage led to a crime spree that included at least 150 murders, twice the regular homicide rate, and widespread assaults, looting and vandalism.
Some of the offences allegedly were committed by police officers themselves, complicating negotiations with state officials who have refused the strikers’ demands that officers be pardoned for any crimes during the walkout.
President Dilma Rousseff, who late last week dispatched 3.000 federal troops to Bahia to restore order, backed state officials’ unwillingness to consider an amnesty.
“There can be no amnesty for illegal acts, crimes against property, crimes against people, crimes against public order,” Rousseff said on Thursday during a visit to Bahia’s neighboring state of Pernambuco. Such an amnesty, she added, would create “a country without rules.”
The end of the statehouse occupation provided some relief to a city stricken by fear at a time when Salvador normally would be gearing up for its popular annual Carnaval celebrations.
Salvador and Rio are among the 12 cities chosen as venues for soccer’s World Cup, just two years away, which is expected to attract as many as 600.000 foreign visitors.
Having already faced criticisms by FIFA, soccer’s governing body, over the country’s preparations for the event; Brazilian officials are scrambling to ensure that security woes don’t complicate matters further.
Meanwhile State security leaders in Rio have also said they can ensure adequate protection in the city even if police there would decide to strike.
The state’s assembly voted Thursday afternoon to increase police wages in Rio by 13%, with an additional hike next year. This was not enough, however, to prevent a walkout.