RIO DE JANEIRO – Family members of military police officers gathered on Friday outside several stations in the Brazilian metropolis of Rio de Janeiro to demand higher salaries and better working conditions for their relatives.
Peaceful demonstrations started early in the day during shift changes at military police stations such as Frei Caneca, in downtown Rio de Janeiro, and Olaria and Tijuca, on the city’s north side.
Demonstrators, most of them women, carried signs demanding higher salaries, better equipment and labor benefits.
Similar protests have been held since Saturday in the neighboring state of Espirito Santo, where military police officers’ kin have camped outside stations and blocked police cars from leaving and patrolling the streets.
The officers, who are prohibited by law from engaging in strikes, have not forcibly removed the protesters.
The absence of police patrols has wreaked havoc in a number of cities in Espirito Santo – most notably the state capital, Vitoria, where a wave of homicides and lawlessness has forced most commercial establishments, schools, universities and bank branches to remain shuttered.
Army soldiers and members of an elite police force have been deployed in Vitoria, which until recent days had had one of country’s lowest homicide rates.
Unrest has also been seen in other parts of Brazil, which is currently mired in a long recession.
The state of Rio de Janeiro, whose like-named capital is Brazil’s second-largest city, is facing an acute financial crisis and protests by public-sector workers demanding payment of outstanding wages.
A protest in Rio de Janeiro city on Thursday against a proposal to privatize the state water company shut down the center of Brazil’s tourist mecca, leading to injuries, arrests, and damage to property.