RIO DE JANEIRO – At least 9,000 troops of the Brazilian army will patrol the streets of Rio de Janeiro starting this Tuesday as a “preventive” operation to substitute a military police force in the midst of a labor conflict.
“Nothing is out of control, there’s no shortage or lack of resources for our security forces,” Brazilian Defense Minister Raul Jungmann said Tuesday when announcing the measure that will initially continue until Feb. 22, but which could be extended to boost security during the Carnival festivities between Feb. 26-28.
The presence of the army in the streets of Rio responds to a request by state Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezao following the confinement to barracks of several military police battalions for protesting about their salaries being frozen and their unsatisfactory working conditions.
“There is no disorder,” the minister said, adding that 97 percent of military police in Rio de Janeiro are going on with their work in the streets.
“We have protests here, but that’s not stopping the officers from doing their duty,” he said, while noting that the situation in Rio is very different from that in the neighboring state of Espirito Santo, where a strike by military police that began Feb. 4 has led to at least 146 people being killed despite the army’s presence in the streets.
“If the armed forces hadn’t acted to bring the looting and arson under control, locals would be at the mercy of those vandals” in Espirito Santo, the minister said.
The protests in Espirito Santo are spreading to other states like Para and Rio, where since last week the wives of the militarized police have been demonstrating outside some barracks demanding improved working conditions and better pay for their husbands.