Rio police strike exposes marred institution

AP Photo
AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A strike by Rio police a week ahead of Carnival celebrations is drawing attention to a deeply troubled force in which low wages help fuel corruption, extortion and lethal violence, experts said Friday.

Recent efforts by Rio de Janeiro state to increase wages and change police culture will help root out some of these long-standing problems, but the change won’t happen suddenly, said Guaracy Mingardi, a crime and public safety expert and researcher at Brazil’s top think tank Fundacao Getulio Vargas.

And this is worrying because part of Brazil’s successful pitch to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 relied on its ability to keep the peace during the events.

“Authorities are now more concerned with the short-term problem of the effects the strike may have on Carnival and are not paying attention to the longer term problem these strikes could represent for the World Cup and Olympics,” said Mingardi.

At the heart of the recent unrest among Brazil’s police forces are low salaries. Rio’s security forces decided to walk out on Friday to demand a pay raise, not content with a last-minute legislative approval of a 39 percent hike staggered over this year and the next.

“The main thing wrong with police forces in Rio, Bahia, and in the rest of the country is the poor wages paid,” said Mingardi. “This is the driving force of the strikes and of the problems affecting the forces.”


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