By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – As tension continues in the streets of Vitória, the licensed governor of the state of Espirito Santo said on Wednesday that the actions taken by the military police and their family members could be construed as a blackmail and that the state would not give in to the ‘ransom demands’.
“What is happening in Espirito Santo is clear blackmail,” governor Paulo Hartung, on medical license since December, told reporters on Wednesday.
“It is the same thing as hijacking the freedom of the Capixaba [Vitória] citizen and [demand] paying of ransom. We can not pay [the] ransom due to ethical reasons and [falling into] non-compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Law.
The situation in the state capital, Vitoria, did not improve on Wednesday, despite federal troops on the streets to guarantee pubic safety. Defense Minister Raul Jungmann announced on Wednesday that federal action in Vitoria, dubbed Operation Capixaba, would receive an additional reinforcement of 550 military personnel from the Armed Forces.
In addition, said the minister, another one hundred members of the National Public Security Force would join the 1,200 army troops who are already patrolling the metropolitan area streets.
Since Friday when family members of military police officers blocked off the entrance to the battalions, the city of Vitória has faced a wave of looting and violence. Shops were forced to close, leaving the population without food supplies. The local government ordered schools and health clinics to close until the situation is cleared up.
Bus companies, which had halted all public transportation on Wednesday, said that they would partially resume routes on Thursday, but G1 media reports that by 9AM on Thursday morning all busses were back in the patios and the city was once again without public transportation service.
Wednesday night state officials met with protest representatives to start negotiation talks. “The population is frightened, people are dying in the streets. This is serious. The police are fully aware of the gravity of the moment we are living. I am very confident that we will be able to restore sanity, because what we are living here is a state of total insanity,” the state’s Secretary for Human Rights, Julio Pompeu, said after leaving the first day of negotiations with demonstrators.
According to local media the leaders of the movement presented two demands: general amnesty for all police, and a one hundred percent increase in wages for all military police officers. Protesters say that the officers have not had wage increases in seven years, and with inflation and the current economic crisis facing the country, many families had to resort to financial help from friends to survive.
Although Pompeu said government officials would discuss the demands, earlier in the day, acting governor Cesar Colnago told reporters that wage increases were ‘out of the question’. Since the protests began local media reports that there have been at least one hundred violent deaths in the metropolitan area of Vitoria.