Human shields: the same tactic used by Saddam Hussein during the US invasion of Iraq is being used now to protect the policemen on strike in Salvador, the capital of Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia.
The Legislative Assembly of the state was invaded by 350 people very well coordinated by Marco Prisco, the head of the police officers Union, Aspra.
Mr. Prisco uses tactics of guerrilla. He is very smart. When the Legislative Assembly was invaded by the policemen they brought along with them their families. Women and kids. They are all together in the area under siege by the policemen on strike.
The elite force of the Federal Police sent by Brazilian capital Brasília to vacate the Legislative Assembly was supposed to intervene last night but it did not. Why? Because of the human shields.
Even before the arrival of the federal forces Mr. Prisco had told the press that 99% of the policemen in the area were armed and in case they were attacked there would be a bloodbath. The insurgents are very serious and seem to have nothing to lose.
The governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, on the other hand, has already asked the federal government to use the federal prisons for the custody of the insurgents. Both sides are very determined and nobody wants to retreat.
Confrontation is very likely. Mr. Prisco even organized checkpoints around the Legislative Assembly to avoid the final assault. It is a real coup, which failed. And, like in all the coups, whoever wins takes no or few prisoners.
But the coup was very well orchestrated. Not only in the capital, Salvador. A proof of that? The soccer team of Bahia was going to play in Itabuna, a city in the south of the state, hundreds of kilometers from Salvador. But local policemen on strike tried to stop the team to play. They only did not succeed because the local population of Itabuna wanted the game.
In the meantime the voices clamoring to put an end to the riot are getting louder and louder. Claudia Leite, a popular singer from Bahia, asked the authorities to find a solution for the dispute.
The Carnaval, which starts a little more than a week away, on February 16, a Thursday, is at risk and that would mean huge economic losses for Salvador, since these festivities are a considerable boom for the local economy.
Schools are shut. Tribunals of the state of Bahia are also shut. Like in a military coup all the public functions have stopped while the confrontation gets nastier and nastier. The bloodbath might really happen.
In the meantime, the number of killings is already close to 100. In Homs, Syria, there were 300 deaths a few days ago and the international press screamed bloody murder. The 100 deaths from Bahia are not making noise internationally. Why? Because Brazil is Carnaval, happiness and forget the social tensions.
Not anymore. The coup attempt in Bahia shows the world that the social bomb hidden under the skin of a peaceful and nice population can always explode. And when it does the 6th economy in the world shows also that it is the 84th in the UN’s Human Development Index.
The elite force of Brazil, the best of the best in the country, is designing a plan for the final attack. Maybe they will succeed. Maybe not.
I just hope that in this mean confrontation the innocent kids used as human shields will be spared and will survive the craziness of both sides.
Max Bono is an investigative journalist traveling in Brazil. You can contact him at email@example.com.