Fri, May 23, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Bus strike strands millions in Brazil

AFP, SAO PAULO

A bus drivers’ strike stranded more than 2 million passengers in Sao Paulo on Wednesday, just 22 days before the Brazilian megacity hosts the opening match of the World Cup.

Adding to concerns about public safety before the year’s biggest sporting spectacle, police detectives staged a partial walkout in many parts of the country.

The drivers’ strike was scheduled to end at midnight, the union told reporters.

Reports said 2.5 million people were left stranded by the drivers’ strike in the Brazilian economic capital, only the latest in the buildup to the World Cup and elections scheduled for October.

Some drivers asked passengers to get out and abandoned their buses in the middle of the street, exacerbating the notorious traffic problems in the sprawling city of 20 million people, Brazil’s biggest.

Few of the city’s 15,000 buses were running and metro stations were flooded with commuters struggling to reach their destinations.

Metro passengers fought among themselves for space on trains that were packed to the limit.

“This strike is messing up all my plans. I had to leave at four in the morning to get to work on time, and now to get home I have to use the metro and a bus, which costs more money and takes longer,” Maria Francisca Silva, a 46-year-old janitor, told reporters.

The Brazilian press carried photos of enormous parking lots packed with buses in Sao Paulo, which will host the World Cup opening match on June 12.

Sao Paulo Transporte said 12 of the city’s 28 bus terminals were closed, mainly in the city center.

Drivers are reportedly rebelling against their own union, which agreed to a 10 percent pay increase in negotiations with management.

Sao Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad condemned the strike, which caught him by surprise when it erupted on Tuesday.

“This is an unacceptable guerrilla war in the city of Sao Paulo. How do you get on a bus and ask a passenger to get out, park the bus in an intersection and take out the key? It’s absurd that a union reaches a deal and a minority acts this way,” he told Band TV.

Gilberto Carvalho, secretary general of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s staff, called the strike “irresponsible toward citizens.”

“We hope common sense prevails, that as the World Cup approaches these protests will diminish,” he said.

Brazil’s civilian police force, which handles criminal investigations, has opened a probe to see whether the strike is a crime.

However, the same police force was itself on strike in seven of Brazil’s 26 states and the capital, Brasilia, calling for salary increases and the reform of what their union calls “chaotic” security policies.

Thirty percent of the force stayed at work to handle emergencies. In Rio de Janeiro, crime reports from the public were being handled normally, according to Globo News.

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