UPDATE: Apparently a strike by Rio de Janeiro security forces is unlikely. On the one hand, concessions have been made; on the other, evidence of illegal and dangerous behavior by strike movement leaders, was aired last night on the TV Globo national news program, Jornal Nacional.
On the night of Wednesday February 8, Governor Sérgio Cabral released news of an additional wage increase to be voted Friday by the state legislature. According to O Globo newspaper, state representative André Correa (PSD), speaker of the house, said, “‘We trust in the state’s public safety employees’ public spirit and responsibility. The government is going to make a huge fiscal effort to concede this increase, of almost 40%, in just one year. In addition, we have planned another significant wage increase for 2014. Thus the base wage of a military police soldier who was making R$ 700 when the governor took office in 2007 will be up to R$ 2,100 in February of next year. And almost R$ 3,000 in 2014.’”
The same night, TV Globo broadcast a taped telephone conversation in which police strike leaders from Rio and Bahia seem to be planning mutual support and acts of vandalism. Until then Globo had barely covered the possibility of a strike in Rio.
It looks like Rio police won’t be getting much popular support for a strike movement.
Carnival starts a week from Friday, with 250% more porta-potties. And possibly, a dearth of police.
Rio de Janeiro’s military (street) and civil (investigative) police forces, plus its firemen are threatening to strike starting this Friday.
The moment couldn’t be better– or worse. The military police of the northeastern state of Bahia are currently on strike, with army troops surrounding strikers holed up with their families in the state legislature building. The U.S. government has advised putting off travel to Bahia, a prime spot for Afro-Brazilian Carnival celebrations, and Globo TV reported today that tourism package operaters have seen a ten percent cancellation rate.
In Rio, police are posting frenetically on Facebook and in blogs, with not much mainstream coverage on the possibility of a strike (or on demands, work conditions, potential impact or the politics involved). Governor Sérgio Cabral has increased salaries and improved compensation in other ways.
But the police are still poorly paid– with many themselves living in favelas– and, perhaps, most important, they’re fully aware of their importance in the new Rio. Crime is down and real estate values and tourism are up, largely due to the police pacification program begun in December 2008, which now extends to 19 favelas.
“We work so you can live safely in the South Zone,” a shock troop officer in the recently-occupied Vidigal favela boasted to RioRealblog, just a couple of weeks back. But the cops aren’t only protecting the upper classes. In Rio’s pacified favelas many people have let down their guard and developed new habits and behaviors; without enough police, criminals could easily start to retake territories and begin a wave of revenge on those they consider to be traitors.
Rio’s security forces have a meeting scheduled with Cabral tomorrow. A demonstration is planned for Thursday in Cinelândia, with the strike tentatively set for Friday.
RioRealblog’s Facebook page is a good source for continuous news updates, as is Twitter, on @riorealblog.