BRASILIA – Recife, one of the Brazilian cities that will host World Cup matches, was hit by a wave of looting early Thursday amid an illegal strike by police demanding pay hikes, officials said.
The disturbances in the northeastern city started at dusk on Wednesday and continued through the night, with looters targeting stores and trucks hauling food.
Recife, the capital of Pernambuco state, is one of the 12 host cities for the World Cup, which starts next month.
The Ivory Coast-Japan, Italy-Costa Rica and United States-Germany matches are scheduled to be played in the city.
Reinforcements have been requested from the National Security Force, a federal agency created to deal with disturbances, Pernambuco Gov. João Lyra Neto said.
The federal officers are needed to restore order in the streets of Recife, whose police force went on strike on Wednesday, the governor said.
President Dilma Rousseff is aware of the situation and expressed “all her support” for maintaining the public safety in Recife and the surrounding area, Lyra Neto said.
Federal forces are expected to arrive on Thursday, the governor said, adding that Recife’s police officers should not have gone on strike while negotiations were taking place.
The negotiations, however, appear stalled, with Pernambuco officials offering a pay hike of 14 percent, while the police union is demanding a 50 percent pay increase.
The worst looting occurred in Abreu and Lima, located near Recife, where numerous businesses were unable to open on Thursday, media reports said.
Grassroots groups called for a demonstration in Recife on Thursday to protest the huge amount of public money spent on the World Cup and demand more spending on education, health, transportation and social programs.
The grassroots organizations plan a series of protests during the World Cup, which starts on June 12 and ends on July 13.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Brazil during the Confederations Cup soccer tournament in June 2013.
Demonstrators protested against the low quality of public services, such as health care and education, corruption and public spending on the Confederations Cup and the World Cup.