The strike begun on Jan. 31 by police officers in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia has resulted in an increase in the number of murders committed there by death squads, the press reported.
“Those groups are taking advantage of the strike, which reduced (police) patrolling, to ‘cleanse’ the area and kill those who are inconveniencing them,” Bahia police homicide division chief Arthur Gallas told the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.
“There is evidence” that the so-called “militiamen,” most of them police officers operating outside the law and former officers, murdered 38 of the 157 people who have died violently during the 12 days of the strike in that region, the police chief said.
The strike by police to exert pressure for more pay began to lose steam late last week when 245 officers who had holed up inside the Bahia state legislature, among them the strike leaders, last Tuesday abandoned the building, which had been surrounded by about 1,000 army soldiers.
In Rio de Janeiro, meanwhile, Militarized Police officers, Civil Police officers and fire department personnel also announced an open-ended strike for the same reason on Friday morning, a week before Carnival is scheduled to begin.
There were no serious incidents reported on the first day of the work stoppage and there was only minimal adherence to the strike by the almost 70,000 emergency services workers, who are demanding a pay hike, the Rio de Janeiro state Public Safety Secretariat said.
The low strike adherence was partly in response to the fact that the state legislature last Thursday approved implementing a 39 percent salary increase for police that had been scheduled for October 2013, although the strikers were demanding a larger pay boost.
The police command arrested 50 officers who refused to work and ordered the arrests of the 11 officers who had organized the strike, nine of whom had already been taken into custody.
The majority of the arrested officers were subsequently released, but 17 of them remain under detention while a judicial decision on their situation is awaited.
Less than a week before the start of Carnival, with most tourists and Brazilians who participate in the revelry flocking to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, the capital of Bahia, state officials intensified the negotiations to normalize the situation and guarantee security at the popular festival.
In Salvador, where some 2 million people are expected to attend what is considered to be the largest street party in the world, several thousand soldiers were deployed to strengthen security, while in Rio de Janeiro authorities, for now, have ruled out any massive presence by the army to guarantee public safety during Carnival.