Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Salvador, Bahia, today, is the scene of events that remind the Curmudgeon of that old familiar Carioca football saying: “Things happen to Botafogo that even God doubts.” We have federal troops firing (rubber bullets) upon state troopers. Unarmed state troopers. State troopers who have not committed any crime. What have they done to deserve this? They have gone on strike.
What? Cops on strike! On the eve of Carnival? How dare they? Who’s going to protect the populace from the bandidos? How will we cope? What happens when a wave of crime strikes Salvador, shops are being pillaged and goods are being pilfered? They’re going to stand around and do nothing?
The answer is … Exactly that: nothing. We’re going to do nothing at all. We’re not going to work and we don’t give a tinker’s damn about what goes on in the City of Salvador, because the Governor doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about us and our ridiculously low salaries, which they’re behind on.
This rhetoric reminds the Curmudgeon of another familiar Carioca football saying: “The clubs pretend they pay the players, and the players pretend they play football.”
Out in the real world, people have stopped pretending. The cops have literally stopped working, and the bandidos know it. The number of murders in Salvador during the past week has doubled from normal, pushing hundred.
On the other hand, if the average number of murders in one week in Salvador is forty or fifty when the police ARE working, that’s gotta be one of the scariest places in the world to live or work or visit. Those are numbers from places like Somalia and Syria.
Tourists don’t go to Somalia or Syria these days, and the City authorities are worried sick that Carnival will be called off.
There’s a U.S. precedent for all this. 33 years ago, in 1979, the New Orleans police force went on strike for higher wages and better working conditions. The Mayor said that without the police, it would not be safe to have the traditional parades, because things can and do get a bit rowdy, as well as raunchy, in the Big Easy.
The police were betting that Hizzoner would buckle under the pressure to have the parades, so dear to tourists, and would agree to a big pay hike. But the Mayor, refusing to be blackmailed, cancelled the parades.
The Governor of Louisiana called out the National Guard, who kept order and prevented looting. According to Wikipedia, the Guardsmen made no attempt to regulate morality or drug use, so some people fondly remember that Mardi Gras as the most fun ever — fewer gawking tourists, more natives who know how to party!
So, perhaps this year in Salvador there will be no parades and no lumbering, thundering behemoths called “trios elétricos.” Somehow, having armed federal troops marching along, guns at the ready, never quite in step with the music, doesn’t seem like it’s very conducive to the glittery glitzy glee of the Salvador street parades.
Or perhaps cooler heads will prevail, the parades will once again fill the streets and alleys and lanes, and tourists will remain.
Michael Royster, aka THE CURMUDGEON first saw Rio forty-plus years ago, moved here thirty-plus years ago, still loves it, notwithstanding being a charter member of the most persecuted minority in (North) America today, the WASPs (google it!)(get over it!)