Brazilian Police Riots Symptom of Larger Problem

By, Cecilia de Almeida CAS ’19

Ever since the Brazilian senate decided – by a large margin – to suspend President of the Republic, Dilma Rousseff, the country has fallen even deeper into political and economic turmoil. The current president is accused of involvement in a fraudulent presidential campaign as well as the biggest corruption scandal in the country’s history, further evidence that a climate of political instability is here to stay. Currently, one of the main issues at the state level is the strike of police officers. The strikes are taking place in Espirito Santo, a south-eastern Brazilian state. One of the main concerns of the federal government is that it will cause other police departments along the country to demand the same raises and benefits. The police have now been on an eight-day strike, claiming that it has been at least seven years since they received a raise above the inflation rate. Through a Facebook page “Movimento das Familias PMES, organizers claimed, “officers will only return to their posts once they state government approves a 100% salary increase”[1]. By law formal strike by police officers are forbidden, yet family members of the police officers have “staged protests outside police stations to prevent patrol cars from leaving”[2]. The police in turn refuse to have them removed by force. If caught, police officers are subject to discharge and could face up to two years in prison.

 

The current recession has severely impacted the state, “which depends heavily on iron ore for revenue and has aggressively cut spending to offset lower commodity prices”[3]. This has lead to increased levels of poverty and unemployment across the country, especially in rural areas like Espirito Santo. The area has  “the country’s fourth lowest military police salary”[4]. This has perpetuated the number of robberies and homicides, which is almost triple of the month’s average in just one week. State officials emphasized a need for, “hundreds more federal troopers and members of an elite police force to help establish order and make up for the 1,800 state police” [5].
The strike is following an incredibly violent first months of 2017. In the beginning of the year, there were several cases of riots within state penitentiaries due to a falling out between two of Brazil’s biggest drug gangs. The federal government needs to establish its ability to solve urgent issues to assure the people that it can deal with crises as they arise. State governments must feel a sense of security that can only be provided by active involvement through the federal government. These strikes are only a symptom of a much larger ailment: the lack of State representation – an issue continues to plague countries throughout South America.

[1] Charner, Flora. “Wave of Deadly Violence Follows Police Walkout in Brazilian City.” CNN. Cable News Network, 7 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

[2] Charner, Flora. “Wave of Deadly Violence Follows Police Walkout in Brazilian City.” CNN. Cable News Network, 7 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

[3] Kiernan, Paul. “Chaos Swells Amid Police Strike in Brazil State.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 08 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

[4] Kiernan, Paul. “Chaos Swells Amid Police Strike in Brazil State.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 08 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017

[5] “Brazil Army Takes over State’s Security as 100 Killed amid Police Strike.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 09 Feb. 2017. Web. 15 Feb. 2017.

Image Credit: Breibart.com