By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Two hundred federal army troops are patrolling the streets of Espírito Santo’s capital, Vitória, since Monday night after at least 65 violent deaths were reported over the weekend. The crime wave started on Friday after police stopped work because of a pay dispute.
Since Friday the families of military police officers have blocked police stations not allowing officers to leave for patrol. The families are protesting for better wages and since by law the military cannot strike, their families are acting on their behalf. Without police presence on the streets, violence in the metropolitan region of Vitória has skyrocketed.
According to Defense Minister, Raul Jungmann, federal troops will remain until the situation is normalized. “Our commitment is to be adamant and determined to restore normalcy, order, peace and tranquility in Vitoria and where else necessary. President Temer determined our presence here and that we would remain as long as necessary for the order to be recovered,” said the official after visiting parts of the city on Monday.
Fearing further violence, the city government announced that the city administrative offices, public health clinics and schools, which were supposed to start on Monday, would be closed until the situation was resolved.
“The suspension of activities in the municipal administration is due to the protest of family members of the state military police and aims to ensure the safety and integrity of servants and citizens,” said the note released to the press on Monday.
“There is no way we can accept this attitude, leaving the population deprived of an essential service like public security,” Cesar Colnago, the state’s governor, told reporters after announcing the federal aid.
Since Friday local media have been receiving cellphone videos from city residents showing scenes of rampant crimes in the streets, vandalism and destruction. Reports of muggings, auto theft, burglaries and ransacking of stores have been common in the past three days.