Brazil Police Strike: For Bahia Governor It’s Damned If He Does, Damned If He Doesn’t

Legislative Assembly in Salvador, Bahia Legislative Assembly, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. About 200 military policemen are occupying the Assembly.  They are surrounded by more than 1300 Army soldiers, besides other police forcers. About 500 military policemen are outside the area threatening to close the Avenida Paralela, the main road to the Assembly which links the city center to the Airport.

This scene of war is going on while the head of the military police union, Marco Prisco, inside the Assembly, is saying that the policemen under siege are getting ready for the final attack. 

Meanwhile the human shields used by the rioters, mainly children, seem to have been evacuated from the area, according to a human rights organization.

The Army warned the press not to get out of their designated area saying it won’t be able to guarantee the security of a journalist outside that space. Everybody is wearing bullet-proof protection. The atmosphere is of war. We are just waiting for the end of the siege. It might happen any time although it is more likely it will occur at night.

The rioters under siege have no water, food or medication. The scene of friendship between the army and the rioters with the birthday cake given the Army commander in charge of dealing with the striking police, made the federal authorities angry. This is not a party and more troops are coming into the area.

There is no chance for the rioters to resist the assault. However, Prisco is counting on the 500 policemen outside the area to put pressure on the Army. Even then the militaries are more than double the number of the rioters.

The military solution might be the only one left as the negotiations got to a standstill. Those on strike are not happy with the salary raise offered them. But more than that the main block to the negotiations is the request from the striking policemen for amnesty. 
Over 140 people got killed during the riot. Assaults on buses, panic in the streets of the whole state of Bahia, cars being stolen everywhere, no public service working, schools, tribunals, all closed.

A scene of war in the deserted streets of Bahia. All that was caused by the riot. It is unthinkable the request of amnesty for the rioters who committed crimes. But this request is really the issue at this point.

The siege made everybody tired. But the Army is getting nervous. They can easily win and the situation must be solved by the end of the week. That seems to be the order to save the Carnaval. Therefore the military solution seems inevitable.

People in Salvador are tired too. There is a genuine desire to be able to put an end to this situation. The coup failed and the responsible will likely pay for it. That is why they have nothing to lose. They are armed and they will use their weapons in a desperate attempt to save themselves.

A scene of war, that’s what we are presented with at the Assembly. Some journalists are planning to get to the rioters before the Army assault happens. But that could be very dangerous. Besides, the rioters are angry at the press too.

The governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, is the most anxious one in this situation. He is a very smart politician and a very successful man, but his entire political carrier is at stake now.

His entourage underestimated the seriousness of the situation.  Now it is too late for recriminations. Wagner has to act and he is facing the Devil’s Alternative, as in the old book by Frederick Forsyth.

If the Army attacks he will be blamed for the bloodbath that will take place. If he does not act he will be blamed for the inaction and the contagion risk which from Bahia might spread to the whole of Brazil. What will he do?

Max Bono is an investigative journalist traveling in Brazil.  You can contact him at researchinrio@yahoo.com.

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