Photo: Brazil Carnival 2012
Police and firefighters in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro went on strike Friday, just a week before the official start of Carnival and despite authorities’ agreeing to a pay raise.
The walkout was apparently inspired by the example of cops in the northeastern state of Bahia, who went on strike 11 days ago.
However, Rio police union official Francisco Chao said the job action in his state will be peaceful, unlike the situation in Bahia, where striking cops have been linked to outbreaks of vandalism.
The state police command in Rio de Janeiro said the force was operating normally on Friday.
Most officers reported for duty as scheduled and there have been no serious incidents, according to the state police spokesman, Col. Frederico Caldas, while sources in the public safety department said that few of the state’s roughly 70,000 police and firefighters joined the strike.
Organizers of a pre-Carnival parade expected to draw some 300,000 people to downtown Rio de Janeiro city said they will hold the event Friday night as planned.
The police walkout was announced a week before the official kickoff of Carnival, an annual bacchanal that brings tens of thousands of foreign tourists to Rio de Janeiro.
State police commanders learned three weeks ago that a strike was possible and prepared a contingency plan to ensure public safety, Caldas said.
Replacements were quickly deployed in the two reported cases of police abandoning their posts on Friday, he said, and the courts have issued arrest warrants for 11 officers identified as leaders of the “illegal” strike.
The federal government said it can provide at least 14,000 soldiers and police to patrol Rio de Janeiro if needed, but the state government has so far declined to take up the offer.
Rio’s state legislative voted Thursday to immediately begin phasing in a 39 percent pay hike for police and firefighters that was scheduled to take effect in October 2013.
Even so, delegates representing cops and firefighters decided to launch the strike.