Thousands of Brazilian federal troops surrounded the state legislature building in the northeastern city of Salvador on Monday as tensions mounted over a week-long strike by the city’s police force. Approximately 3,500 troops are currently being deployed to Salvador to deal with the 4,000 police officers and their families—including 300 children—that have been occupying the government building since last Tuesday. The police are demanding a 50 percent wage increase and better working conditions.
Crime has soared in Salvador since the strikes began, resulting in widespread looting and over 83 murders—up 129 percent from the previous week. Bahia Governer Jaques Wagner condemned the situation, saying “A group of police using reprehensible methods, spreading fear among the population, caused disturbances in some parts of the state.” But strike leader Marcos Prisco warned yesterday that “if the army storms the building there could be a catastrophe,” referring to the large number of civilians participating in the protest. One strike leader was arrested for taking control of more than a dozen police vehicles, and warrants have been issued for 11 other strike leaders.
Salvador is Brazil’s third largest city and home to one of the country’s largest Carnival celebrations that begin in just two weeks. The city will also host several games during the 2014 World Cup. In an effort to address concerns over transportation capacity surrounding the upcoming World Cup, the Brazilian government moved to privatize operations at three of its major airports yesterday. But the ongoing standoff in Salvador shows that violence and insecurity issues continue to loom over Brazil’s hosting duties.