December 21, 2014
Bahia chaos sparks fears ahead of W. Cup
Death toll related to police strike in Salvador rises to 58 as violence in Rio adds to concerns
BRASILIA — Three more people were killed in the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia yesterday and local media reported that police officers were unavailable at most stations, although a two-day strike that affected Salvador last week has been officially lifted.
Union and official sources said officers were back at work after last week’s strike, which was marked by looting, robberies and the slaying of at least 39 people, according to official numbers.
But local newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo said yesterday that an extra 16 homicides took place during the night from Friday to Saturday and then three more yesterday, raising the death toll related to the police strike to 58 people and raising security concerns ahead of the soccer World Cup.
Military police from the state of Bahia went on strike last Tuesday to demand pay raises and a “new model to manage public security.” The police force eventually lifted the measure on Thursday after a meeting between union leaders and state authorities, but the two-day strike and the violence that followed sparked concerns as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in less than two months.
While the strike was on, Bahia governor Jaques Wagner asked President Dilma Rousseff to deploy 6,000 troops, who eventually arrived on Thursday just as the strike was being lifted. Wagner warned, however, that the federal forces would remain in the state “until we have the certainty that everything is back to normal.”
Salvador will host six World Cup matches, with the first one scheduled to take place on June 13, between Spain and Germany.
Another headache in Rio
The unrest in the state of Bahia adds to a series of recent violent incidents in Rio de Janeiro’s biggest slums, where police have set up posts in a bid to “pacify” favelas ahead of this year’s soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics that the city will also host.
In the most recent incident, angry residents of Niteroi — just outside Rio — torched nine buses on Saturday to protest the death of a man killed by a bullet on his way to a Good Friday church service.
Protesters blamed police for the killing of 21-year old Anderson Santos Silva and said the young man died while trying to protect his mother and nine-year-old sister from bullets from a gunfight involving officers.
Failing to deliver a safe and well-organized World Cup would be a serious blow for Rousseff, who is hoping that the soccer competition will boost her dwindling popularity ahead of a presidential election in October in which she will seek re-election.
A poll showed last week that negative evaluation of Rousseff’s performance rose to 28 percent from 22 percent. Her positive evaluation was 32 percent, compared with 34 percent in February, according to a Vox Populi survey of 2,200 voters that was conducted from April 6 to April 8.
With construction companies racing to finish some World Cup stadiums in time, preparations for the 2016 Olympics have come under greater scrutiny, both abroad and at home.
Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said on Friday that the city is on track in its planning for the 2016 Summer Olympics, after the heads of several sports federations expressed concern about the pace of the city’s progress, leading the International Olympic Committee to announce that Executive Director Gilbert Felli and other officials would fly to Rio to oversee and consult with local planners.
“Their presence is very good, because we are going to show them we have no reason for concern,” Paes said.
Herald with Télam, AP, Bloomberg