Brazil: Bahia’s Failed Strike Taught Policemen They Cannot Terrorize and Blackmail Anymore

Police on strike leave Legislative Assembly “I am going to burn cars, I am going to burn trucks and shut the access of the Rio-Bahia road, a federal road.” “Shut the access my brother. Shut the BR”. This conversation shown on Brazilian national TV did not take place between criminals but between policemen, between a policeman and  Marco Prisco, the head of Bahia’s police trade union.

This intervention by Rede Globo, Brazil’s main TV network, was decisive to end the strike. Why? Because it showed what I  have been writing for a long time during the uprising: this fight was not about money but about power. The power of force. 

Once it was seen on TV that the leaders were terrorists, the potential popular support to the strike vanished all at a sudden. And that effectively legitimated an assault of the Army on the policemen under siege.

Nobody was protecting them any more. At that point the only sensitive thing to do not to be killed was to surrender. And that is what happened.

Wednesday, 6:30 in the morning, the strike of the military police under siege occupying the Legislative Assembly ended. Mr, Prisco was arrested and others terrorists like him will be too.

The strategy of using terror to win the uprising against the Government of Bahia failed entirely. The truth? Mr. Prisco and his followers at the beginning of the uprising must have thought: “They (the government of Bahia) have to do what we say. We have the weapons. We shut the streets. We do terrorism. We, not the politicians, give orders here in Bahia. Why? Because we have the pistols, machine-guns. And if they do not obey we are going to use them”.

A typical  dictatorship mentality, which is still present among some military police in Brazil, especially in the Northeast. Not all the military policemen think that way and certainly fewer of them think like that today.

The governor of Bahia risked seriously to lose control of the situation but he was right not to accept the blackmail and carry on. He won. The military police lost as it will receive a pay raise in line with the other public civil servants.

The military police would have received it anyway with or without the strike. Their leaders have been arrested. But the main result of the failed coup is that the military police lost its power of threatening the society. The are not above the law. They cannot terrorize the society and get away with it. This is a great victory for the Brazilian democracy.

Strikes are legitimate and should be allowed. But using terror against the population and children as human shields is a repulsive attitude. The military police thought they could do anything. They cannot and now they know it. They are part of a democratic society and have to adapt to it. Brazil is freer today.

At the same time, today, the Brazilian press will be grieving the defeat of the uprising. Let’s not forget the truth once again. Very few papers gave a truthful picture of what happened during the uprising. Now it is easy to celebrate.

But during the military coup attempt only few of us journalists talked about human shields, terrorism acts and fight for the power and not for the money. We even risked serious retaliation during this short but cruel war with about 150 deaths. But we were right to say the truth to our reader.

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

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