Police Strike Triggers Violence in Northeastern Brazil

  • Senator Cid Gomes was shot by a group of police officers while trying to use a bulldozer to clear the area occupied by security personnel.
  • All cities within Ceara, such as Paracuru, Milagres, Paraipaba, Forquilha and Canindé, have cancelled planned carnival celebrations.
  • Striking police officers have demanded salary increases and other labor demands.

Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has dispatched army and national guard troops to the northeastern state of Ceara in the wake of a police strike, and a wave of lawlessness. He also sent out a warning. “To the people who are committing crimes,” Bolsonaro said, “they have to understand that the men in green are coming, and it’s going to get ugly.”

Ceará is one of the 27 states of Brazil, located in the northeastern part of the country, on the Atlantic coast. It is the eighth-largest Brazilian State by population and the 17th by area. It is also one of the main tourist destinations in Brazil. The state capital is the city of Fortaleza, the country’s fourth most populous city.

Senator Cid Gomes was shot by a group of police officers in the northeastern city of Sobral while trying to use a bulldozer to clear the area occupied by security personnel. The scenes led to President Jair Bolsonaro’s government sending army soldiers to patrol the streets of different cities in the state. The Ceara State Security Secretariat reported that the number of violent deaths soared to 51 between 6 AM Wednesday and 6 AM Friday.

All cities within Ceara, such as Paracuru, Milagres, Paraipaba, Forquilha and Canindé, have cancelled planned carnival celebrations, claiming to worry about the safety of residents and tourists. The protests of the Ceara state police have had a national impact: TV images show that police without uniforms were rioting and their faces were masked, showing their battalions and abducted patrols. Police in Ceara and other states are still dissatisfied, demanding salary increases and other labor demands.

Jair Bolsonaro is a Brazilian politician and retired military officer who has been the 38th president of Brazil since 1 January 2019. He served in the country’s Chamber of Deputies, representing the state of Rio de Janeiro, between 1991 and 2018.

On the fourth day of the police riot, the Brazilian Army patrolled the streets of the state capital of Fortaleza and its metropolitan area, where more than four million people live. The soldiers arrived at the demand of Camilo Santana, the state’s governor, of the feft-wing Workers’ Party (PT). “This is a matter of responsibility. It is a serious matter. If we are in an urban war, we must send someone there to solve the problem,” Bolsonaro said. Soldiers were mobilized from different barracks in the Northeast.

Some Ceara police have participated in a mutiny launched on Tuesday night, blocking and closing down battalions, paralyzing patrols and surveillance operations, triggering multiple violent attacks and, as a result, murders occurred. Rebel police have demanded a minimum monthly salary of R$4,500 ($1,022) starting this year, while the state government of Ceara has proposed to gradually increase wages from the current R$3,200 to reach this level in 2022.

During the riots, about 300 state police officers were sentenced to disciplinary action, which led to the state government’s statement that it would not negotiate amnesties for these. The state government of Ceara has also launched an investigation into riot police and has arrested three agents who destroyed public property.

Brazilian law prohibits police strikes, and the ban also applies to other security forces, such as firefighters and prison staff. A judge at the Brazilian Supreme Court criticized the police strike and reviewed its unconstitutional actions while defending “grave judicial consequences” against the insurgents. On Friday, local media reported that masked police had launched a new attack on the security forces’ own facilities located in Sobral, 280 km west of Fortaleza.

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Benedict Kasigara

I have been working as a freelance editor/writer since 2006. My specialist subject is film and television having worked for over 10 years from 2005 during which time I was the editor of the BFI Film and Television.

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