RIO DE JANEIRO – The crisis in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro deepened Thursday with the national government’s decision to freeze more of its assets over unpaid debt and the announcement that public-sector employees will not be paid until mid-month.
The federal government on Thursday announced the freezing of more than 140 million reais (some $42 million) of funds held in that southeastern state’s treasury accounts, bringing to some $94 million the amount frozen this week.
The action was taken due to the state’s outstanding debt with the national government.
That local administration declared a state of financial emergency in June, shortly before the start of the Olympic Games, paving the way for it to receive federal funds to help cover its financial obligations.
Rio de Janeiro Gov. Luiz Fernando Pezão, of the nationally governing Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, said the state would need to delay salary payments until Nov. 16 because of the asset freezes.
He announced a harsh austerity plan last week aimed at balancing the state’s accounts, including cuts to social and cultural spending and public-sector workers’ salaries.
On Tuesday, thousands of police officers, firefighters and prison guards protested outside the seat of the state legislature, located in Rio de Janeiro city.
Hundreds of protesters occupied the building for a couple of hours and damaged windows, doors and some of the rooms, acts of vandalism that Legislative Assembly President Jorge Picciani termed an affront to the democratic rule of law and “unprecedented in Brazil’s political history.”
A new protest was held Thursday in Rio de Janeiro city’s downtown, but no incidents were reported.