Brazilian police went on strike in Rio de Janeiro yesterday, risking a surge in crime just days before the beach city’s famed carnival celebrations.
Salvador, Brazil’s third-largest city, has already been hit by a crime wave since police walked off the job there last week. The Rio strike is likely to force the government to send in thousands of army troops, as it did in Salvador.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists will descend on Rio next week for carnival parades of scantily clad women and men dancing to samba bands and raucous street parties in the annual pre-Lenten bash.
Both Rio and Salvador are two of the 12 Brazilian cities that will host the 2014 soccer World Cup and the police strikes add security fears to concerns about inadequate infrastructure for the global sports event in Latin America’s biggest country. Rio will also host the Olympics in 2016.
Thousands of police, firefighters and prison guards voted to strike in Rio, demanding higher wages. It was not immediately clear how many of the 70,000 workers in those posts would comply with the call for strike.
Rio state authorities have said 14,000 army troops were ready to protect the city from the wave of murders, looting and vandalism that hit Salvador after 20 percent of the 31,000 police officers of the northeastern state of Bahia walked off their jobs on Jan. 31.
Salvador’s striking policemen remained defiant on Thursday and voted to maintain their stoppage even after hundreds ended an occupation of the state legislature.
Some of the vandalism in the city was allegedly 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.