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By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Rio state secretary for security, Roberto Sá, said yesterday (Friday, February 10th) that he could count on the support of federal forces, if necessary, as a result of the protest movement by women supporting the military police by blocking the exit of several battalions.

Rio state secretary for security, Roberto Sá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Rio state secretary for security, Roberto Sá, said he could count on the support of federal forces if needed, photo by Carlos Magno/IMPRENSA RJ.

Yesterday Sá declared, “I have already talked to the Minister of Justice and they are in a position to act if necessary,” during a conference at the Integrated Command and Control Center, where he spent the afternoon meeting with the public security summit.

“I sincerely hope that our police will be able to provide an operational response in a satisfactory way, and that the families who are rightfully claiming the receipt of the thirteenth [salary payment], reflect on the risks that our society is facing with a possible [strike action],” he added.

The state of Rio de Janeiro has been gripped in suspense as threats of strike action similar to what has happened in the city of Vitória surfaced earlier this week. In Espirito Santo, the state neighboring Rio to the north, the families of police officers blocked security forces from patrolling, leading to widespread violence and over one hundred deaths.

A source within the military police force in Rio de Janeiro, who spoke exclusively to The Rio Times with the promise he would remain anonymous, described how they (military police) had not been paid since February 2nd, and he “had to stop [his] health insurance in order to pay my nieces school.”

Families of the unpaid police force, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Brazil News
Families of the unpaid police force protest in the state of Rio de Janeiro, photo by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil.

Secretary Sá said that the government will be able to make late payment of the police next Tuesday (February 14th), but that the regularization of the thirteenth salary will depend on the success in the votes that interest the government in the Legislative Assembly.

Among other measures, the main one is the authorization for the privatization of the State Water and Sewage Company (CEDAE), a condition imposed by the federal government to make possible a loan of R$3.5 billion.

“The governor promised us in the last meeting that he will pay the salaries on the next tenth day, next Tuesday, and that, having succeeded in the votes on Monday and Tuesday, on Wednesday he determines administrative measures for payment of the thirteenth, RAS [Additional Service Regime, PM overtime] and could make a schedule to standardize the payment for the remainder of the year.”

This vote has proved controversial in the state though, with violent protests against austerity measures staged regularly in downtown Rio. Hundreds of protesters have gathered multiple times outside Rio de Janeiro’s Legislative Assembly House (ALERJ), ending with police using tear gas and shooting rubber bullets.

The timing of a police strike for Rio, so close to Carnival, could prove very detrimental to the state’s ability to capitalize on much needed financial boost brought by tourism. Carnival brings around a million tourists each year and last year officials estimated that during the five-day holiday, tourists added approximately US$740 million to the local economy.

In 2012 the military police, civil police and firefighters in Rio de Janeiro had gone on strike weeks before Carnival, but it was resolved without major incidents of public violence, before Carnival arrived.

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