The Brazilian government sent 2,500 troops to the city of Salvador on Wednesday after a police strike led to looting and attacks on public transportation. Salvador, the capital of the northeastern state of Bahia, is set to host six matches during the World Cup this June.
The police strike, over higher pay and better working conditions, began on Tuesday. Marco Prisco, president of the Police and Firefighters Association of Bahia state, said the police will end the strike when Bahia’s government responds to their demands. 27,000 police officers, represented by six unions, joined the strike after nine months of unsuccessful talks with the state government.
Bahia Governor Jaques Wagner’s request for assistance from the military was authorized by President Dilma Rousseff, said the defense ministry.
This is not the first time that the Brazilian government has sent troops to Salvador. In 2012, a 12-day police strike led to an increase in murders and violence, with at least 80 homicides registered during the strike. The defense ministry has said it will send more troops to the city if they are needed.
Please find the original text below, submitted in Portuguese.
Prejudice against religions of African descent is a growing problem in Brazil. The most recent census, taken last year, notes that more than 70 percent of Brazilians self-identified as Catholic—making Brazil the largest country of Catholic worshippers in the world. However, religiously motivated conflict typically originates among smaller, more ideological faiths. For example, police have been called in to break up conflicts between Evangelical Brazilians, who represent 15 percent of the population, and religious Afro-Brazilians, 0.3 percent of the population. This is frequent in cities like Salvador, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and São Luiz.
The Mapa da Intolerância Religiosa: Violação ao Direito de Culto no Brasil (Map of Religious Intolerance: Violations of the Right to Worship in Brazil) was launched last May to monitor religious intolerance throughout the country. The Mapa aims to relay to the press and relevant authorities any instance of physical or symbolic aggression.
Complaints to the police range from invasions of Afro-Brazilian churches by radical evangelicals to the iconic death of Mother Yalorixá Gilda. A famous name in my community, Mother Gilda was the leader of the Candomblé religion—the most traditional of the Afro-based religions in Brazil. She had her photo printed in a newspaper of the Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus (Universal Church of the Kingdom of God), the largest Pentecostal church of the country, with inscriptions incorrectly suggesting that she was a charlatan. Although the courts ruled in favor of Mother Gilda’s family, the conflicts between the two sects did not end.
Brazil’s government has also violated the right to worship. Three years ago, the mayor of Salvador, João Henrique Carneiro, ordered the overthrow of a religious African temple in a critical area of the city. He alleged that the temple was built illegally. This act was seen as a serious crime against human rights, in addition to being unconstitutional and the social activist protests that followed made headlines in numerous newspapers. That caused even more dismay in Salvador being the city with the most number of Afro-Brazilian religions (1155).
June 1: This AQ-Efecto Naím segment looks at sustainable cities in the hemisphere.